While Ada and the rest of the team escaped the destruction of the AIC homeworld, they now find themselves fighting an even more insidious battle with forces that are too caught up in killing each other to realize the extraterrestrial threat.
Meanwhile, even as Ben fights to to understand what comes next, it is his father who is closest to unlocking the key that could change the invasion forever.
But not everyone can live to fight another day.
Enter Abyss, the seventh book in the Oblivion series, is a high-octane, action-packed blast that will leave military science fiction fans hungry for more!
Release date: April 5, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 135
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) great world-building (1) military clashes (1) profanity-laced (1) realistic characters (1) rich setting(s) (1) satisfying ending (1) suspenseful (1) terrific writing (1) thought-provoking (1) unexpected twists (1) unputdownable (1)
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“Do you have any idea?” asked the Oblivion devotionist to Gregor’s right.
“Idea about what, Wilfson?” Gregor replied.
“You know, what’s next,” Wilfson said. “I mean, I get that we had to cull the population, but what’s next for us? Will the saviors give us the peace of the Abyss?”
Gregor considered his friend. He stood at casual attention, rifle in hand, looking around the desolate ruins of the capital, Vassar-1. His bald head glistened with sweat. Wilfson was the reason that unbelievers saw the Oblivion as a cult of the weak.
Gregor knew better, though. Wilfson might be soft, but the Oblivion was strong.
Gregor’s mom had died two years prior. His father, unable to live without his wife of sixty-plus years, had followed her to the grave soon after. That left Gregor alone with a pile of medical bills, no family, no friends, and no kids. All he had was a job as a pleasure ship docking attendant. Just another of the forgotten in Vassar-1.
All that had changed when he met his first Oblivion truth-speaker.
Now, two years later, Gregor was among the first cultists to make the assault on the city he was born in, grew up in and lost everything in. The city had already fallen. The Battle of Vassar-1, as he’d heard it called, had only resulted in a failed rebellion that had done little more than hasten the arrival of the Saviors’ ship. It wasn’t the blow to morale that their enemies believed it would be.
Gregor was positioned in a square across from ruined docks that had once housed part of the Vassar-1 City Sentinels’ fleet. He and his fellow cultists were meant to guard it, to prevent any survivors from breaking in and maybe salvaging a ship or two and trying to escape the planet. They had strict orders that no one left the AIC capital, period.
“Hopefully we get chosen to transition and join them,” Gregor said plainly.
“Become a Savior?” Wilfson squeaked. “Oh, man, I’d be lying if that doesn’t scare me a bit. But it would be an honor, wouldn’t it? Hand-picked by our Saviors to join their ranks.”
“Do we deserve it, though?” Gregor asked. “What have we done so far? Sent some civilians to the Abyss? They didn’t even fight back.”
“Are you saying we’re gonna have to earn it?”
“Probably. Right? I mean, you want a promotion, you gotta work hard to earn it. Right?”
Wilfson looked a little disappointed. “I guess so. But how are we supposed to do that? Earn it?”
“I dunno. Maybe we gotta find and kill some survivors.”
“That’s a good idea! But we can’t right now. Can we?”
“Not right now. Right now we stand guard, like Ducar ordered us to.”
Wilfson looked down at his feet, then back up at his friend, Gregor. “That guy, I don’t like him.”
“No one does. He sucks. He’s in charge, though, so…”
“Yeah. I wonder what we’re supposed to be gu—” Wilfson’s attention was torn away by a rumbling sound. Pebbles and dirt on the ground of the square started to vibrate. “What is that?”
Gregor looked out in the direction of the rumbling noises. Shapeless, in the form of UEF fighters, screamed by overhead in that same direction, eager to engage someone. He held his rifle at the ready, transitioning from holding it with one hand to two.
There was the sound of fighting and explosions, just out of view. Gregor’s pulse started to race. A fight was coming, but against who? They’d crushed the rebellion, who was left to fight?
“Gregor? What’s happening?” asked Wilfson, scared.
“They’re coming.” Gregor checked his gun to make sure it was armed and ready to rock. The other devotionists were starting to line up at the wall, also sensing the fight to come.
Those same men who lined up, ready to defend, got knocked back on their asses by the force of the exhausts of dozens and dozens of AIC ships that appeared over the horizon and sped over and upwards towards the Shapeless flagship high above, in orbit. Gregor couldn’t believe his eyes. There were so many of them. Where were all these ships coming from? Not the city; they’d made a point of destroying every ship they found in Vassar-1.
As Gregor and the others sat there in awe, watching the seemingly never-ending cavalcade of ships speeding up towards their Saviors, accompanying fighters made short work of the Shapeless’ lesser versions below. So naturally, more were sent. The Second Battle of Vassar-1 had begun.
Where the hell am I?
Ben Saito’s eyes opened. He was in a haze, not unlike the one he’d woken up to after his surgeries, but he didn’t see a hospital room ceiling above him. He saw an undulating liquid ceiling of hundreds of different colors. It would’ve been beautiful if it wasn’t so alien.
“We have humans incoming,” Ben heard his mother say. But it couldn’t be her; she was long since dead.
Ben felt something strange on his forehead, a sucking sensation. With one hand he reached up and felt something soft and greasy. It was an unpleasant texture. Then he realized that there was nothing underneath him. He wasn’t lying on a bed or table; he was floating in mid-air.
“Impossible!” Ben heard the slimy voice of the Pale Man.
Something about his voice made everything suddenly snap back into place.
The Shapeless! They tried to mine my memories. Is that what they were up t….the weapon! They were trying to find the weapon!
Ben struggled to look around him. His head was locked in place, but his eyes could investigate the edges of his vision.
Where was he? He had no idea. The Shapeless must’ve kidnapped him to try and pry the location of the UEF’s weapon out of him. He knew—and more importantly his father must’ve known—that it was destroyed along with the real Atlas. Not only would they get the location of something that didn’t exist anymore, but the fact that they thought they could meant that his dad had to still be in there somewhere, fighting back, deceiving them.
He didn’t tell them.
“They’re coming from two sides. Below and above,” said the voice of his father.
So he was here, too. Ben wasn’t sure what to think of the voice of his mother, but he was beginning to think there was something in his father that could be saved.
“Two sides? How? We cut off all communication, fried their HUDs,” said the Pale Man.
“Perhaps you underestimate them,” answered Saito. “They found a way to call for help.”
“Gah.” The Pale Man dismissed his words. “Well, what do we do, Captain? Put some of that training to use.” The Pale Man leaned on Saito’s military acumen. Ben knew it was one of the main reasons he’d assimilated his father into the fold to begin with.
“We fight. Give me a ship, and I’ll lead,” said Saito.
“No, I need you here,” the Pale Man said sharply. After a pause, wherein Ben was sure the location of his voice changed, he said, “I hate to use the last of it, though.”
Ben slowly craned his head up as hard as he could, gritting his teeth and stretching his neck muscles to the point of tearing in order to get a better look around. He saw his mother, Beverly, standing next to the Pale Man. His father was opposite them. A Herald Stone—a small one, no bigger than a baseball—floated, much like himself, right next to the Shapeless leader.
Ben remembered what he’d seen when the Shapeless were in his mind. He remembered the strange glowing yellow-eyed beings that had hijacked their attempts. He remembered what the Herald Stone was. The being had called it their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. They needed it to survive. So that was his objective: get that stone, even if that meant he died in the process.
The burgeoning plans in Ben’s head went on pause for a moment as he made eye contact with his father. He froze there, not knowing what to do. Then, to his surprise, his father simply looked away. And that was when Ben knew he had to move.
Suddenly the whole Shapeless flagship shook violently.
“What is that?” Beverly asked, surprised.
“That’s a thousand ships zeroing in on us,” his father said. “It’s kind of hard to miss a large, liquid metal sphere floating in close orbit.”
“Enough,” the Pale Man snapped. “We have to nip this now.”
“It’s the AIC,” Saito said. “They were preparing to attack the UEF anyway. They won’t care that we’re releasing them to the Abyss. They’ll only attack as if we were the Earthlings.”
“Yes,” the Pale Man said sourly, as if he didn’t need to be lectured on the obvious. “But if they plan to take us down, they’re going need tens of thousands more missiles.”
Saito shrugged. “They might have them.”
Satisfied that the Shapeless’ attentions were completely focused on the outside threat, not himself, Ben started making moves. He grabbed the tendril attached to his head with both hands. While pulling, he tried his best not to think about how inherently creepy and disgusting it was to have something like that attached to his forehead. It took a couple of tugs, but he managed to get it off.
The second Ben got the tendril off his forehead, he fell to the floor of the command bridge. It was surprisingly cold. All the walls in the room turned clear, giving him a dizzying and somewhat nauseating surround view of the battle that was erupting in space around the spherical ship.
You gotta be kidding me! Look at all of them. They must’ve gotten a message out somehow.
For a moment, Ben stayed on the ground on his hands and knees and took in the scenery outside. He’d never seen so many AIC ships in one place. All of them were blowing their way through faux Shapeless UEF fighters, towards the Shapeless flagship, and they showed no signs of stopping—though he was determined to take it out before they could reach it.
Ben got up off the floor. A Shapeless came rushing at him from behind, shrieking like a wild animal in its death throes. It got Ben’s attention, but unfortunately it also got everyone else’s attention, too.
The Pale Man, Beverly, and Lee all turned in unison.
“Shit,” Ben said when nothing better came to mind.
Step one was not getting cut up into little pieces. Ben dodged a couple of swipes from the Shapeless as it rushed at him. One almost cut his neck open like a Pez dispenser, but he narrowly dodged it. Confident that he had just enough distance between them, he then made a run for the Herald Stone.
Beverly moved in front of the Herald Stone, blocking it. She let out a shriek as tendrils came flying out of her mouth and tried to ensnare Ben.
But her tendrils were grabbed in mid-flight by Lee.
Beverly startled back in surprise and then went stumbling forward as Lee yanked on them, clearing a path.
Ben jumped and rolled past Beverly, and ripped the Herald Stone out of the stasis field it was suspended in.
Immediately upon touching it, Ben felt a sudden rush of energy. He also knew exactly what to do, as if the stone itself spoke to him. In fact, he was so confident all of a sudden that he didn’t even blink when he saw the Pale Man sprinting straight towards him.
“Give that back!” snarled the normally calm Pale Man. He reached out for Ben, each finger elongated with a black talon at the end.
Ben stretched out his hand with the Herald Stone in it. He touched it to the tip of one of the Pale Man’s talons. Glowing cracks started to appear all over the Shapeless leader’s body, just like the ones Ben had seen in the Herald Stone during his vision just minutes earlier. His oily black obsidian eyes opened wide, and then his body disintegrated into hundreds of glowing, burning embers.
There was no time to celebrate the apparent death of the Pale Man. Ben still had to save his father, then find a way off the Shapeless’ flagship.
Lee still held Beverly by the tendrils. She’d stood back up and now looked at Lee, confused, like she didn’t want to believe that she was being betrayed. Lee, too, looked confused, as if he was just as baffled about what had just happened.
Ben took advantage of whatever was happening to his father and the alien crisis of confidence inside him by rushing at him, Herald Stone in hand. He had no way of knowing that if he hit Lee with it, it would free him from the Shapeless’ influence, or if it would disintegrate him like the Pale Man.
All Ben knew was that at this point, he’d accept either outcome. It would tell him the truth either way. Anything was better than…
Something slammed into Ben from behind, and it was only then that he realized he’d forgotten the Shapeless behind him.
Luckily, Ben didn’t feel the bladed tendril puncture the back of his calf, because it was his artificial, mechanical one. He did, however, feel himself get pulled off his feet. He was slammed face-first on the same ground he’d just picked himself up from moments ago.
Ben managed to turn his body around as he was being reeled in towards the Shapeless monster, who’d turned the majority of its body into a gigantic mouth full of rows of razor-sharp teeth. It was terrifying, but Ben had a nuclear weapon as far as the aliens were concerned.
Knowing the devastating effects, Ben touched the Herald Stone to the tendril through his leg. It worked just as he hoped. The Shapeless-turned-monstrous-mouth developed glowing cracks beneath its skin and disintegrated, all in a matter of a few seconds.
The Shapeless flagship took several more devastating hits. It was able to self-repair, but it was becoming clear that it wasn’t going to hold on forever, restorative properties aside. And without the Pale Man, Ben wondered if anything else would be able to move the sphere.
Ben watched as a pair of shapeshifter dreadnoughts sacrificed themselves to cut off the heart of the AIC attack on the sphere. They were both, in turn, ripped to shreds by concentrated AIC missile attacks that poured out of the oncoming wave of ships.
Ben got up and made his way towards his father, who fought Beverly. It wasn’t much of a fight, as he was easily able to grab her and throw her through the wall, out into outer space. The extreme cold did her in almost instantly. Now it was just Lee and his son on the command bridge of the Shapeless flagship.
His father’s head snapped around to look at the far wall, his eyes unfocused, almost like he was looking through it. “Hang on,” he said calmly.
“That’s a special payload,” he said. His voice was distant, and Ben wasn’t sure if he was talking to him or something else.
Ben finally saw the massive missile his father was somehow seeing, just as it erupted in a ball of light and energy that seemed to wash over the semi-transparent walls around them. Heat poured in as if they were now standing in the middle of a furnace.
The whole living vessel began to freak out.
The perfect spherical shape of the Shapeless flagship became contorted. Spikes and spirals flew out of it as it tried to deal with the new foreign weapon. But it couldn’t compensate, and the ship died. Now at the mercy of its orbit around Vassar-1, it was helpless.
Scared of death for probably the first time in their existence, and completely without direction from the Pale Man, the Shapeless on board the flagship panicked and jumped off—only to meet their demise in the vacuum of space, Ben noticed. It was as he’d theorized long ago: they worked in a hive-mind mentality, in which they needed a leader to guide them.
Lee was also affected by the loss of the Herald Stone and the Pale Man. He stumbled around and fell to the floor. Ben ran over to see to him. Yes, he needed to find a way off the dying ship, but he wasn’t going to leave without his dad. All of this, all that he did was originally just to save him, so he wasn’t about to give up now.
“Dad?” Ben knelt down next to Lee, whose body convulsed. He didn’t get an answer.
An AIC ship slowly pulled up to one of the transparent walls of the Shapeless flagship’s command bridge. Ben barely noticed as a port on the ship slid open and a small army of Marines in combat suits instantly began cutting away at the side of the ship. They shoved some flexible material against it just as the wall fell away.
But he did notice the face in the central shaft who stepped across, rifle in hand, with a trio of Marines around her.
“Director Engano?” he gasped. “How?”
“I expected to see a familiar face,” Engano said. “Just not yours.” She nodded past Ben at his father. “What’s his condition?”
Ben turned around to see that his father was on the ground moaning.
“Shit,” she said, coming up short. “What the hell is your condition?”
Ben shook his head. “I’m fine,” he said. The places where the Shapeless had slashed him were bleeding, but nothing felt too deep. And his father was his big concern now.
“We’ll figure it onboard,” Engano said. She snapped her fingers, and the Marines stormed past Ben and headed for his father.
“No,” Ben shouted. “Let me.”
The Marines stopped and glanced back at Engano. She nodded and they stepped back.
Ben knelt down over his father. He took a deep breath and pressed the Herald Stone against Lee’s stomach, where the black tendrils originated from. For a moment his body seized up, and Ben feared he might’ve killed him. But then the black oil-like substance dripped off his body, revealing a problem that Ben hadn’t anticipated. There were still open wounds underneath that Lee had suffered back on Sanctuary Station. Somehow the alien infestation had simply suspended the injuries, as if time had frozen, and now they were all coming unstuck at once.
Using his own upper body strength and that borrowed from his artificial arm, Ben picked the unconscious Lee up. The Marines took a cue and joined in helping to carry Lee to the makeshift loading ramp of Engano’s ship, and then carried him inside while Ben stopped at the edge.
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