All of mankind is at risk of extinction as their powerful human avatars are activated throughout known space and their tendrils of influence grow.
Friends and enemies alike must join forces if they hope to uncover the ultimate prize of the invaders.
Death on a global scale was only the beginning.
Now the fight for the galaxy begins.
Beyond Ruin is the fifth book in the Oblivion series, a high-octane, action-packed blast that will leave military science fiction fans hungry for more!
Release date: January 19, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 222
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) alien worlds (1) cool gadgets & tech (1) emotionally riveting (1) entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) future societies (1) great world-building (1) imaginative (1) military clashes (1) realistic characters (1) rich setting(s) (1) satisfying ending (1) suspenseful (1) tearjerker (1) terrific writing (1) thought-provoking (1) unexpected twists (1) unputdownable (1) witty (1)
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Lunar Police Detective Sergeant Rowan Sydal was a simple man. There wasn’t much he needed in order to be happy: just two things. One of them lay asleep next to him.
Sydal heard a beeping noise in his head. All he wanted was to ignore it, sleep in with his wife, and enjoy his weekend. Instead, he knew that sound meant he had to get up. The only question was for what, and where did he have to go?
Sydal lived on the dark side of Earth’s moon. Apartments there cost significantly less than those bathed in light and breathable atmosphere, and they needed to save money. It was the only way they’d get off that gray rock.
Sydal sat up in bed, swung his feet over to the side, and looked out his bedroom window. It was almost pitch black. The only source of illumination came from the stars.
Can’t ignore them. They’ll just keep calling.
“Answer call,” ordered Sydal through his HUD as he wiped sleep and any hope of a pleasant morning out of his eyes.
“Detective? Sorry. Did I wake you?” asked Officer Marsh, the designated police dispatcher for the third shift.
“I can’t remember the last time the third shift DPD didn’t wake me, Marsh,” whispered Sydal, not wanting to wake his wife Maria. “Just get to the point, Bob.”
“Looks like we got a homicide for you, sir. Chief wanted you on the case. That’s why I’m calling so early.”
“Great.” It was hard to be sarcastic while whispering over a HUD, but Sydal hoped he’d managed. “Where?”
“Under the dome. Waterman-Lau Docks.”
Even better. I’m gonna have to deal with company assholes. Can this morning get any better? “What number?”
“What’s that, sir?”
“The company has a whole hell of a lot of docks on this rock. Which one?”
“23. Near Bierman’s Crater.”
“Got it. Tell the chief I’ll be there in thirty.”
“We can send a thruster unit to pick you up.”
“And get shot down by a kid with a pea-blaster who hates cops? No thanks. I’ll take the bus.” The truth was, Sydal just didn’t want the awkward quality time with a robot cop unit, if he could help it.
There was a long pause while Marsh seemed to cast around for how to respond to that. He settled on the wrong argument. “The chief would prefer—”
“The chief can screw himself. End call,” Sydal said. He took another minute or two to stare out at space. How did he get here? It was a long way from living on the bottom level of Chicago, back on Earth, but he still felt trapped, despite having left the planet to escape that very feeling.
Sydal felt Maria’s small, warm hand on his exposed thigh. Always warm, her body was like a little furnace, and that wasn’t because of her Latin temper. At least, not completely.
“Why aren’t you laying down?” she asked in a groggy half mumble that was barely intelligible. Luckily, Sydal was an expert translator.
“Work,” Sydal said. He wrapped his fingers around his wife’s hand on his thigh.
“What time is it?”
“Way too early.”
“I thought today we were going to—”
“Maybe after,” he said. “Depending on what this shit is.” He paused. “Just go back to sleep. Hopefully I’ll be back before you wake up.”
Sydal gently removed his wife’s hand from his thigh and stood up.
Ten minutes later, he struggled to get a lid on his coffee as he joined the line to get on the forty-five bus from the dark side of the Moon to the Dome. Specifically, he was going to get off at the Navy docks, then walk to the Waterman-Lau sections. From there he could take the lunar tram. It wasn’t the most convenient trip, but it was better and a whole lot cheaper than hiring a rover.
A little coffee spilled out on Sydal’s hand. He cursed the coffee, his life, and the damn moon. The person in line in front of him turned around and gave him a dirty look.
It took almost ten minutes, but Sydal finally made it to the front of the bus line. But just as he got there, the LTS worker that managed said line started to close the airlock. There was no way Sydal was just going to wait there patiently for another bus in fifteen minutes. “Stop. Don’t close that airlock,” he ordered.
“Sorry, sir. UEF regulations. We’re only allowed to board a maximum of—”
Sydal flashed his detective badge. “You can make an exception this time. It’s official police business.”
The LTS employee hesitated for half a second. It wouldn’t be the first time Sydal had been shot down by a bored asshole who was willing to roll the dice that he was just running late and full of shit.
But the man only grumbled to himself as he reopened up the airlock door. Sydal climbed onto the short walkway that connected the depressing buildings of the dark side with the docked bus. Then he got aboard the bus, bulkheads closing behind him.
Soon as he stepped on the bus, Sydal regretted not waiting for the next one. It was packed from wall to wall. He ended up pinned inside by the door, looking outside the window. If anyone moved, he and his coffee would likely smash up against it, getting the precious life-giving liquid all over himself.
“Welcome to LTS Line 45, service to the Naval Docks. Please move away from the doors as we depart.” The automate voice of the 45 Bus’ public announcement system went on to talk about what to do in case of emergencies as the transport backed away from the dark side airlock.
Like most on that bus, Sydal took this route a lot. He knew that it was about a twenty-minute ride before they got to the dome itself. One big energy burst from the transit station, and the bus would just ride inertia and a handful of thrusters to the dome station. Then another ten or so before they reached the Navy Docks. Once there, the tram would’ve taken another ten minutes or so. Why he’d told Officer Marsh he’d only be a half an hour was beyond him. It’d already been that long already.
But the dead weren’t going anywhere. They could wait.
The moon’s surface was boring. All Sydal saw were the lights of the dark side’s facilities growing more distant, smaller, and the endless grayish-black moonscape as the bus slid over. Somehow the ride being smooth made it worse. He couldn’t even feel the only exciting part of the large rock—the topography.
Sydal switched his focus from the now-disappearing dark side to the Earth’s moon’s dome. Made from super-hard but light dura-plastics, the city-sized dome kept in breathable atmosphere and climate controls, providing the lucky denizens there all the comforts of home, but without the overcrowding. At least, that was its initial selling point.
Once the military had moved from their stations orbiting the Earth to the ultimate satellite of the moon, the population under the moon’s dome soared. Constant work was underway outside the edges to expand it. With that influx of workers and new residents had come an increase in crime. Sydal’s days had shifted from mostly paperwork to a constant stream of violent crime cases in the last few years.
He hated it.
The moon dome was a beacon of light that stood out against the darkness of the moon itself. It started in the shadows, but expanded into the full light provided by the distant sun. Everything went from gloomy to brightly lit and busy as soon as the bus got close.
Sydal ignored the automated LTS voice as he exited the bus at the entrance to the Naval Docks. It was so much more than just a place to build, load, and unload ships. It was a center of commerce on the moon.
Immediately upon entering the Naval Docks, Sydal’s HUD was assaulted by advertisements. He needed to update his ad-blocker software. It had been a couple of days, and new patches and workarounds came every few hours.
Closing pop-ups as he walked, Sydal tried to make his way through the throngs of people towards a large, glowing neon Waterman-Lau sign. It was always crowded, no matter what time of day or night. Not only were there people on their way to their mundane office jobs—endlessly relocated to the moon for tax reasons—but plenty of others besides. Military making their way to their ships, dock workers and ship builders on break getting a bite to eat or a stiff drink, police bots watching the crowds, and enterprising vendors in a constant battle to carve out space for their stands against the jostling crowds.
“Hello. Welcome to Waterman-Lau’s Naval Docks location. How may I help you?” An interactive holographic projection of an attractive young woman appeared before the closed and locked steel doors to Waterman-Lau’s docks.
Sydal threw his empty coffee cup into the nearby trash incinerator. He took the badge off the chain on his neck and showed it to the holographic projection.
“Welcome, Detective Rowan Sydal. You are expected.” The doors to the Waterman-Lau docks opened up. “Please proceed to the tram that will take you to number twenty-three. And have a fantastic day!”
“Too late for that,” mumbled Sydal as he entered.
Waterman-Lau’s section of the Naval Docks was completely cut off from the rest of the facilities. That was the kind of privacy that having an exclusive deal with the government to build ships could afford a company.
“Welcome to Waterman-Lau, Detective Sydal,” an actual real-life attractive young woman greeted him as soon as he got out of the company’s lobby. She was in a red dress, with smart glasses and high heels. “I’m Tiffany Lau, your liaison today.” She held out one hand small for him to shake. Her grip was deceptively strong.
“Hello, Tiffany. You gonna take me to the scene of the crime?”
“Gruesome business.” Tiffany feigned disgust; Sydal could tell. If nothing else, his years on the force had helped him pick up keen eyes and ears for lies.
“Sounds like it. We gonna go?” All Sydal wanted was to finish up quickly so he could return home and maybe have lunch, perhaps late lunch, with his family. The slim possibility of salvaging his Saturday was all that fueled him at this point, along with cheap coffee.
“Of course. This way.” Tiffany led Sydal to a fancy-looking, shiny red chrome-plated tram on hover rails. It went along the edges of Waterman-Lau’s section of the dome.
As he traveled to Dock 23 and the crime scene, Sydal looked out on the much better-lit, livelier section of the lunar surface. He watched as ships moved out from various docks: some hauling cargo; others fighter ships just off the line and ready for duty; and lastly, looming over the others, was a half-built battleship hovering over everything else, sparks flying.
“This is kind of strange, isn’t it?” he said as he kept his eyes on the battleship being built outside.
“What would that be, sir?” Tiffany asked.
“Having a Lunar cop come in to investigate. I thought you guys had your own police force. Some kind of deal with the head honchos here to take care of problems behind closed doors.”
Like every other member of the Lunar police, Sydal had heard the stories about Waterman-Lau. And they’d all found themselves on cases that stopped at the dead end of this gigantic, extremely influential, government- and military-connected company. Naturally, no one on the force trusted them.
“We do have an internal security force. But in this case, a homicide, it’s UEF law that the police force representing the government on any given colony is the authority. We’ll gladly cooperate and provide any assistance you need.”
Sydal smiled after hearing Tiffany’s clearly rehearsed response. He knew damn well that they didn’t report all the deaths in their docks. Something must’ve been different about this case he was about to walk into. And to tell the truth, he was a little intrigued.
The small tram stopped just below a sign for Waterman-Lau Lunar Dock 23. Tiffany got off, and Sydal followed.
First thing that he noticed was the crowd of workers, in their yellow uniforms, standing around listlessly. None of them had anywhere to go or anything to do. “What’s all this?” asked Sydal.
“We asked the foreman to tell his workers that they can’t leave until they’ve been questioned or the authorities—yourself—tell them they can leave. Come this way.” Tiffany led the way through the crowd of workers. Plenty had dirty looks for Sydal, which he offered back in spades.
Tiffany took the detective to a cordoned-off section of the docks. There were stacks and stacks of airtight boxes and crates. A couple of Waterman-Lau security officers stood guard. Even from a distance, Sydal could see the plastic-sheet-covered bodies.
“Detective, this is our head of security, James Renault. Mr. Renault, this is Detective Rowan Sydal.”
The overwhelming first impression Sydal got of Renault was that he was a veteran. Small but noticeable scars on his face looked like the kind a soldier might’ve received from shrapnel. His eyes, dark and distrustful, had the forlorn look of a man who’d seen too much. His bushy goatee was the sign of a serious man not concerned with fashion.
A real throwback, then. And probably a bastard, too.
“Detective,” Renault politely but gruffly responded with a slight French accent. When he shook Sydal’s hand, Sydal noticed it was clammy. That struck him as strange.
Is he nervous?
“Good to meet you, Mr. Renault. Wanna show me what you got?” Sydal had had enough of introductions and traveling. He wanted to get down to business, see what he was working with.
“I’ll leave you two to it. Please, ring me on your HUD if you need anything, Detective.” Tiffany excused herself.
Sydal was sure she had a lot to do. Bringing in a cop to investigate a murder on their grounds, words must’ve started to spread throughout the dome. He figured she had a lot of public relations damage control to do. Before leaving, he’d call in a tail on her.
“The victims, Jay Norris and Henry Thompson,” said Renault as he walked Sydal over to the plastic-covered bodies.
Renault nodded. “They were both logging these crates before they went into storage or assigned them to a ship.”
“What’s in these crates?” asked Sydal as he turned on his HUD’s recorder. It would record everything he heard and saw.
“Nothing out of the ordinary. Machine parts, some ammunition from the front lines. The kind of freight we deal with every day.”
“Where from?” Sydal knelt down by the first body. He lifted up the plastic sheet. Before he took a look, he figured he’d see damage from a blunt object, maybe a falling crate or someone trying to make it look that way, or perhaps a fatal gunshot wound.
“Well, shit,” he said. In Sydal’s experience, murderers tended to kill their victims in the easiest way available to them. Most didn’t go for brutal; instead they went for effective. Few he’d ever encountered had chopped their victims to pieces while they were still alive, but that was confronted Sydal on Waterman-Lau’s Dock 23.
“Who or what can do that to a guy?” asked Renault as he stood over Sydal. “I’ve seen more than my fair share in the war, but this…I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
I bet you have seen a lot of horrific things. Did that change you into the kind of man who could do this? It does some.
Sydal had a hard time reading Renault. Maybe it was the monotone voice, or maybe it was just difficult to focus with the butchered meat bag in front of him.
The strangest part of the chopped-up dock worker was that it didn’t look like the pieces of him were pulled together and placed to make the coherent shape of a person. It appeared that whoever’d killed him had cut him so fast and so suddenly that all the pieces naturally fell to the floor, already close to the original form.
“That’s Jay Norris. Poor bastard. Looks like he got thrown in a woodchipper and then put back together by whatever sick bastard did this.”
Normally when a civilian found a scene like that, a horrendous murder, they were sickened by it. At the very least, they’d do their best to look away, even a cop. Sydal thought it was a bit odd that Renault just stared blankly at his slain co-worker. He didn’t even flinch.
Don’t jump to conclusions, Rowan. He could just be numbed by war. Does that to a lot of guys. Not you, but it did that to your brother, your sister. Before they…
For a brief moment—brief, only a second—Rowan saw his sister as he’d found her just two years earlier. She’d waved at him before opening the airlock to the lunar surface. She’d smiled before her face and body caught up to the realization of what she was doing.
“I said, have you ever seen anything like this before, Detective?” asked Renault.
Sydal realized that he must have zoned out for a second. Maybe it was more like a handful or two. That had been happening a lot lately. Maria had tried to get him to go to a neurologist, but he refused.
“No. Where did these crates come from? Their point of origin?” Sydal shifted his focus away from Norris’ body and towards the open crate that stood between the two bodies.
“That’s the strange part. See, most of these on this dock came from Earth. Hell, pretty much all of them.”
“Is that normal? Each dock only having shipments from the same planet?” Sydal looked at the crate. It was too small to hold a person. It was barely big enough to fit a damn dog. He looked inside, but it was empty.
“Sometimes, yeah. It really just depends.”
“On?” Sydal made a point of constantly asking questions. It kept most people off kilter, and sometimes reaped rewards.
Renault seemed unbothered. “There’s a lot of factors, but mostly it depends on what’s in them and where they’re going from here. This whole moon is nothing but a damn weigh station.”
Sydal stood up and stretched his back. “You said there was a strange part—other than your workers being sliced and diced.”
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