Into The Chaos
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A terrible massacre was discovered…
…Did the same fate befall Sumer?
Captain Brian Royce brings Hadad to his home planet, which shows obvious signs of battle. Did any of his family survive?
Where are all the children…did the Zodarks take them?
Admiral Miles Hunt finds himself appointed to a new position beyond his current skillset. He now has to become more than just a ship captain and fleet commander…
…He must become the Viceroy of the Milky Way Galaxy.
On Alpha Centauri, an archaeology team makes a discovery that sends shockwaves through the Republic—a discovery so profound it could cause a division and a potential split within the alliance.
The newly deployed 2nd Republic Army Group on the planet Intus finds itself the vanguard of the alliance’s efforts to liberate the remaining Primord planets. As the Zodark forces are continually pushed back, the alliance edges closer to bringing the war to the enemies’ core worlds.
Can Miles Hunt become the leader humanity needs him to become?
Will the 2nd Republic Army Group survive a gruesome battle on a frozen planet?
Join us as book four uncovers another piece to the puzzle that ties humanity to more than just Earth and the Milky Way Galaxy. Grab your copy today.
Release date: June 27, 2021
Publisher: Front Line Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 355
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Into The Chaos
1st Orbital Ranger Division Sumer
“This is it. Our first combat drop as Rangers. I want everyone to keep their heads on a swivel and stay frosty. We have no idea what we’re going to encounter once we’re down on the ground,” growled Lieutenant Travis Atkins as they prepared to board their orbital assault ships.
“That has to be the oldest, meanest lieutenant I’ve ever seen,”
commented one of the new privates to their platoon.
“That’s because he used to be a master sergeant before he was an officer,” said Sergeant Paul “Pauli” Sanders under his breath. “You’d do well to listen to whatever he says, Private. He’s saved many of our lives more times than I can count.”
“The only intelligence we have on this planet comes from a special reconnaissance unit,” Lieutenant Atkins continued. “Word has it a Zodark force carried out some sort of massacre of all the Sumerians in the system. We have no idea if there are any Zodarks remaining on the planet, but if there are, let’s kill ’em. Now get on those transports and let’s roll!”
The Rangers let out a roar as the doors to the dropship opened and they rushed on.
Pauli fastened his straps, snugging them tight. No matter how many times he did these drops, he never got used to them. Something about being strapped tightly to the seats as the dropship plunged through the atmosphere of a planet just didn’t sit well with him. He felt so naked and exposed in the ship as it dove through the atmosphere— he hoped and prayed a lucky laser bolt or missile didn’t slam into him. It was about as helpless as Pauli had ever felt.
When the doors closed, Atkins’s voice resumed over their headsets. “Our objective is to secure the spaceport and the surrounding buildings and warehouses. We’re going to be smack-dab in the middle of the capital city, so stay alert. If there are Zodarks left on this planet, this is likely a key place we’d find them.”
As he was speaking, the mechanical arm attached to their dropship started to move them out beyond the edge of the ship. It made a few clicking and clacking noises as it separated them from the ship.
“First Squad, what’s your objective?” Atkins called out. “Secure the spaceport and the landing zones. Check for booby
traps and clear the facility for follow-on forces.” “Second Squad, what’s your objective?”
“Move to clear and secure the neighboring warehouses and buildings.”
“Third and Fourth Squads, what’s your objective?”
Pauli lifted his chin up as he answered for himself and Yogi. “Move two blocks and across the street to clear and secure the capitol building.”
The dropship stopped moving as it prepared to be released from the ship.
“Outstanding! Everyone, stand by to drop. Remember your
training, stick together and we’ll all make it out of this alive!” “Hooah!” came the single-word reply.
The dropship detached from the arm of the ship and floated momentarily in space. Then the pilots activated the thrusters and angled them toward the planet.
“Hang on, everyone! Some sort of defensive weapon near the spaceport just activated,” the pilot announced over their coms network. “We’re going to deviate to the alternate drop zone.”
The dropship took evasive maneuvers, moving about wildly. Pauli connected to the ship’s outside cameras, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was going on. His stomach tightened, and he immediately regretted looking.
In the sky around the spaceport, flashes of light stabbed through the air. Luckily, the entire city and the surrounding area didn’t look like this, just a few key pieces of infrastructure around the capitol. Whatever force was on the ground didn’t appear to have any sort of large numbers or be very well-coordinated.
A couple of missiles flew up from the ground, racing towards one of the dropships. Both were thankfully intercepted and destroyed. A pair of Reaper ground-attack ships swooped in out of the clouds and plastered several of the enemy positions with their smart missiles. More Reapers and even a few P-97 Orions joined in. As the dropships neared the ground, more and more of the gun positions were being taken out.
“When we get on the ground, I want each squad to continue on with your original mission,” Lieutenant Atkins growled over their coms. “The only thing that’s changed is we have a little more distance to cover to reach our objectives, nothing more. If your squad encounters resistance, see if you can handle it. If you can’t, then we’ll try to coordinate some additional help. We’ve got Reapers and Orions on standby, and soon, we’ll have some Cougars for added ground support.”
Pauli wasn’t sure how the LT managed to do it, but damn near every time he spoke, his words came out in some sort of gravelly growl.
“Stand by,” the pilot called out. Moments later, the dropship flared its nose up a bit as it came to a near hover above the ground. The pilot set them down, and moments later, the rear hatch opened, allowing them to disembark.
“Let’s go, Third Squad!” Pauli barked to his soldiers as he led the way off the dropship.
He had his rifle at the low ready as he advanced. Not spotting any initial threats, Pauli kept going until it looked like he was about to reach the edge of the park. When he stopped, he pointed to one of his fire team leaders to have him bring his team online to his left while his other team leader did the same on the right.
“Let’s get our scout drones deployed,” Pauli ordered. “I want our eyes and ears up now.”
In his peripheral vision, Pauli saw the dropship was already lifting off to head back into orbit and pick up the next wave of soldiers.
To his front lay a four-lane city street. Along the sides of the street were vehicles that resembled cars and trucks, all parked; on occasion, he spotted vehicles that must have been the equivalent of buses. It was a ghost town.
This place must have been a hopping city before the Zodarks came along, Pauli thought sadly.
Some of the buildings near the park ranged in size from five stories to as high as ten. Closer to the spaceport and what they believed was the actual capitol building were significantly larger buildings, twenty to upwards of a hundred stories high.
Not all of the buildings, but many of them, were scarred with battle damage. Scorch marks, denoting fires or intense laser blasts of some sort, pockmarked buildings and skyscrapers throughout the city. Many of the windows on the ground level had also been blown out.
Then there were the bodies. Some of the streets and sidewalks were littered with them. In several areas, though, the bodies were neatly arranged or even stacked like they were awaiting removal and disposal. “I know this is some weird-looking crap we’re all seeing,” said Lieutenant Kranston over the platoon net, “but I need you all to put that out of your minds. There’ll be plenty of time to come back and gawk at this stuff later. We have a mission to accomplish. Right now, we need to secure the spaceport for the follow-on forces and our heavy equipment.”
His intrusion into their thoughts snapped them out of their rubbernecking. Even Pauli had found himself just staring at everything. “OK, Rangers, you heard the man. Let’s get a move on,” Pauli ordered.
Pauli proceeded down the four-lane road with his rifle at the low ready. They hadn’t encountered anyone yet, and right now, speed was more important than stealth.
“Pauli, why don’t you have your squad take the right side of the sidewalk so you can watch the upper side of the buildings along the left side of the road, and I’ll have my squad do the same thing on the opposite side,” his best friend, Yogi, offered.
“Sounds good. Let’s do this thing.”
The squads moved to the sides of the road and walked along the sidewalk. The lead couple soldiers held their weapons at the low ready while a couple of them kept their rifles aimed up, toward the windows on the higher floors of the building.
Pauli kept finding himself looking into the shattered windows of the shops they passed. Some of the stores contained the bloated and decaying bodies of dead Sumerians, some were empty. A few of the buildings looked like they’d been looted, which he found odd. But then he figured if there had been survivors, they would have picked the places over for anything useful.
I’m glad as hell we’ve got these helmets, Pauli thought. The stench of the place must have been horrendous. All these rotting and decomposing bodies…
As they approached the spaceport, Pauli spotted several columns of black smoke rising in the distance. A handful of trucks that looked like they had some sort of laser turrets mounted on the backs of them were nothing more than burning wrecks. They spotted a couple of dead Zodarks, but also some Sumerians, who looked to have been fighting with the Zodarks. This was a first for Pauli. In all the fighting they’d seen against the Zodarks, not once had he seen humans fighting alongside them.
“Everyone, fan out,” Pauli called out to his squad. “Alpha Team, I want you on the left flank. Bravo, take the right. Let’s move toward the capitol building.”
Yogi’s squad changed up their formation to match Pauli’s as they let them get a good fifty meters ahead of them.
First and Second Squads moved into the spaceport to clear it and the adjoining warehouses. Once each area was cleared, they sent word to the ships in orbit so that they would send down the larger transports and equipment.
Once the spaceport was secured, the two-block walk to the capitol building went by uneventfully. It was more of the same, at least until they reached the steps of the building.
If Pauli had to compare this edifice to something he’d seen on Earth, he’d say this place looked somewhat similar to the state capitol building of Texas or any other statehouses in the Republic. It was a large building with a massive center structure and then two smaller structures on its flanks.
As soon as they crossed the street, all hell broke loose.
Zap, zap, zip!
Laser bolts flew right at them, causing his squad to run for cover.
Pauli ducked behind an earthen wall that led towards the first level of concrete stairs, then fired several quick shots at the enemy. Between his targeting computer and their scout drones, it looked like there were about forty hostiles shooting from different windows and doors of the capitol building. Some of the shooters were Zodarks: most, however, appeared to be Sumerians who’d sided with the vicious blue aliens.
As the shooting between the two sides continued, Pauli’s guys were steadily taking them out. They focused their shots on the Zodarks first, then moved on to the Sumerians. The Zodarks were by far the more feared adversaries, so they had to be dealt with rapidly.
When they’d taken out probably half the shooters, Yogi’s squad of soldiers bounded forward. His two fire teams would advance and cover half the distance to the building before stopping to take cover. Then they’d lay down suppressive fire so Pauli’s two teams could catch up and move past them to the edge of the building. Steadily, the two squads of Rangers dispensed with the handful of Zodarks and quickly overwhelmed their less trained and equipped Sumerian partners.
When they entered the first floor of the building, Pauli had their drones broadcast an offer of surrender in the Sumerian language. He hoped if they gave the Sumerians a chance to give up, they might take it. Their little defensive stand had cost the lives of thirty of their own and not killed a single one of Pauli or Yogi’s soldiers. A couple of guys had been injured, but none had been killed.
Pauli and his soldiers held their positions for a few minutes while the drones communicated the offer to surrender. They watched and waited; Pauli was just about to order his teams to move further into the building when a lone figure walked toward them. At first it was just one person; then it was two. Then a group of a dozen or more headed in their direction.
Stepping out from his covered position, Pauli held his rifle at the low ready position. His barrel wasn’t leveled at the soldiers walking towards him, but he was ready to spring into action and lay waste to them if needed. Using the universal translator built into his helmet and the speaker amplification, he called out, “Please keep your hands held high in the air so we can see them, and continue to walk towards us.”
At this point, Pauli counted seventeen of them. They were dressed in gray khaki uniforms with what appeared to be a name tape above the breast pocket and some sort of color patch just below it. When they saw Pauli step out from his position, they momentarily paused their steady march towards him. Once their initial shock at encountering a humanoid figure speaking to them in their native tongue had passed, they continued to approach him.
“I want each of you to come to this room, then I want you to stand in front of this wall. Several of my soldiers will come up to you and pat your body down, looking for any weapons or explosives that may injure you or my men. Once you have been cleared, we will ask you to sit down against the wall while we continue to search and clear this building. Is this understood?”
Pauli hoped the universal translator had conveyed things clearly. In tense situations like this, the wrong word could cause a catastrophic response.
One of the Sumerians spoke up. “You speak our language.
Who are you?”
“My name is Sergeant Sanders,” answered Pauli, using his last name to be more formal for the occasion. “I am a soldier in the Republic Army. We have come to Sumer to liberate your planet from the Zodarks. We need you to stand against the wall and let my soldiers search you for weapons.”
Many of the Sumerians appeared very confused by Pauli’s statement, but they complied with his instructions. One fire team kept their rifles trained on the Sumerians while the other team searched the prisoners. As each detainee was cleared, they were directed to sit on the floor and their hands were zip-tied in front of them.
“Pauli, my squad just finished clearing the ground floor,” Yogi told him. “We’re moving to the next level. How many prisoners did you bag?”
“Looks like seventeen. Keep searching up there. Maybe you’ll be able to convince a few more to give up. No reason to keep fighting a losing battle. We have a quarter million RASs about to land on the planet.”
Yogi nodded and headed off with his squad.
Pauli returned his attention to the prisoners in front of him, pointing to the man who had asked him a question earlier. He motioned for the detainee to get up and follow him. He wanted to speak with this guy away from the others and see if he could figure out how many Zodarks might be left in the city and why these Sumerians were fighting alongside them.
“Please sit,” Pauli directed. He then took a seat opposite the man, placing his rifle in his lap. Taking his helmet off, he revealed his face to his prisoner, who looked like he couldn’t believe what he was looking at.
When the prisoner began to stammer, Pauli put his helmet back on so he could use the universal translator. “You’re, you’re…human…just like us,” the man said.
Smiling, Pauli replied, “I am. So are all my soldiers. You and I have a lot to talk about—like why are you fighting on the side of the Zodarks, and who killed all the people in the city? We came to this planet as liberators, to free you from the Zodarks. Now we find most of the people dead and those left alive fighting alongside them. Please, explain to me as best you can. What the hell is going on?”
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