Into the Stars
The stars are within mankind’s reach…
…But what awaits in the void may end humanity…
Mars and the Moon have been colonized, piracy runs rampant in the asteroid belts, and a thriving society grows in the depths of space. Humanity prepares to embark upon its greatest journey—the colonization of Alpha Centauri.
Then everything changes…
A deep space reconnaissance probe discovers a new Earth-like planet twelve light-years from Earth’s sun. The probe also finds something unusual, something…unnerving. A new mission is created, a space fleet is formed, and humanity embarks on unraveling the greatest mystery of all—the origins of life itself.
Can the factions of Earth remain united, or will old rivalries and animosities destroy the fragile peace in the face of this terrifying existential threat?
Will exploration prove to be a fatal mistake?
If you love new technologies, fast-paced action and gut-wrenching turns of fate, you’ll love this first book in James Rosone’s military sci-fi series, The Rise of the Republic.
Grab your copy of this page-turner today.
The Rise of the Republic Series is best read in order, as each book builds upon the previous work. The reading order is as listed:
Book One: Into the Stars
Book Two: Into the Battle
Book Three: Into the War
Book Four: TBD
Book Five: TBD
Book Six: TBD
Release date: August 9, 2020
Publisher: Front Line Publishing Inc.
Print pages: 365
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) alien worlds (1) cool gadgets & tech (1) entertaining story (1) future societies (1)
Content advisory: No profanity or sexual content
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Into the Stars
Near Planet Intus
Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 3rd Delta Group
Captain Bryan Royce stilled his mind and steeled his resolve. After nearly two months in transit and training nonstop on the Midway, the first human soldiers were about to land on the planet Intus, a world that had once been a Primord colony, now controlled by the Zodarks.
The Prims had tried to take it back several times unsuccessfully. When the humans had joined the Altairians’ Galactic Empire, the GE had assigned the Earthers to work with the Prims to retake the planet. As their first real military campaign with their new allies, it was a test to see how well humans could work within the coalition and be a viable partner.
Royce stood in front of his company of ninety Deltas and one hundred and seventy combat Synths. “This is a hot drop, everyone,” he began, his voice booming. “When the ship drops out of FTL, they’re going to burn to get us in orbit—that’s when they’ll release our Ospreys. Accompanying us will be a single squadron of F-97 Orions. They’ll be with us until we HALO, then they’ll escort the Ospreys back to the Midway.
“Once the Ospreys get us within thirty thousand meters of the surface, we’ll free-fall from there. This’ll be our first HALO jump onto a hostile planet and our first jump as a combined human and Synth fighting force. Everyone needs to stay sharp, heads on a swivel.”
The Deltas nodded, listening intently.
“I don’t think the Zodarks have weapons capable of targeting us individually during our drop, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try,” Royce continued. “Platoon leaders and sergeants, it’s imperative that once we get on the ground, you move to hit your primary objectives ASAP.”
Royce then turned to 001, affectionately called Adam. “Once we’re on the ground and identify their defenses, I need your squads to stand by to assault the ion cannon. Is that understood?” he asked. Adam was the C100 designated to be the overall leader for the combat Synths assigned to his unit. The one hundred and seventy C100s were broken down into squads intermixed with Royce’s four platoons.
The Deltas had found that the best use for the C100s was direct assaults. The Synths weren’t the best at scouting and surveillance like trained Deltas, but they were beasts when it came to direct-action missions. So, the Deltas were more than happy to find the Synths targets to attack and stand out of their way.
“Understood, Captain Royce,” replied Adam emotionlessly, the single blue light where eyes would normally be tracking from right to left.
Royce turned back to the rest of his company. “Once the Midway recovers our drop crafts, they’ll pull out of orbit and join the rest of the fleet in battling the Zodarks. Remember, once those ion cannons on the surface are taken out, that’s when the fleet will send in the rest of the orbital assault ships and disembark the Republic Army soldiers. There’s a full division of RASs coming in the first wave, but we need to take those planetary defenses out first. Hooah!”
“Hooah!” shouted the Special Forces operators. They were just as eager as he was to get this show on the road.
“Everyone, form up on the flight deck in sixty mikes,” Royce ordered. “We’ll load up and be ready to deploy as soon as the Midway drops out of FTL. Is that clear?”
“Hooah!” came the single-word reply to his question.
The Deltas filed out of the briefing room to their individual platoon rooms to finish getting ready for the mission and packing a few last-minute items. Mostly, they needed to make sure they had enough extra power packs and ammo for their rifles. Should they get cut off from the rest of the fleet, they had to make sure they could hold out on their own for a little while.
Royce inventoried his own patrol pack one final time. He had extra food in there, along with two water purification pods. He’d never liked the idea of relying on just one purification pod—if it somehow got damaged, he’d be out of luck. A person could live without food for a while, but not water. Next to ammo, it was the most important thing to pack.
Hearing some hooting and hollering, Royce cinched his patrol pack shut, draped it over his shoulder, and headed out of the supply room to the hangar. The soldiers were already filing into the sixteen Ospreys and twenty dropships anchored on the sides of the Midway.
Fortunately for Royce’s company, they had drawn the short stick to HALO onto the planet as opposed to being dropped closer to the target via the dropships. Technically, his company had the more dangerous job, but they were also less likely to get blown out of the sky by a lucky hit to a dropship. The downside to his units having to HALO in was where they were landing. The ion cannon was heavily fortified, but one section was left partially exposed. That section butted up against a heavily wooded area that offered no optimal landing zones. Hence, the HALO insertion.
As Royce climbed into the back of one of the Ospreys, he watched the row of soldiers and Synths strap themselves in. He couldn’t see their eyes or faces—not with their helmets on—but he knew his human soldiers were nervous. The C100s never showed any emotions; they were ready to execute orders, whatever those orders might be, regardless of the consequences.
This was a unique mission for the Earthers—a lot different from their past missions. This wasn’t a mining colony on some faraway planet they were trying to capture. This was a Zodark-controlled world: one with a substantial military force on it.
Gazing at the timer in his HUD, Royce anticipated the Midway was about to drop out of FTL. It wouldn’t be long now until their Osprey began its journey to the surface—assuming their ship didn’t get blown up before they got into orbit.
“Captain Royce, prepare to launch,” came a voice from the flight operations control deck of the Midway.
“Stand by, people,” Royce told his soldiers. “We’re dropping out of FTL any minute now.” He hoped his other lieutenants were doing all right, keeping their men and women pumped and ready for action.
“Midway is dropping out of FTL…now,” the woman’s voice from flight operations told Royce.
Moments later, the main thruster came online and the Midway lurched a bit, doing its best to get into a high orbit over the planet before they unloaded their human cargo.
The minutes continued to tick by. The rest of the soldiers crammed into their shuttles and dropships, waiting for the final go order. Suddenly, the Midway shook. Then Royce felt the ship change course a couple of times, probably dodging something.
It felt like time stopped as they waited to launch. The Midway shook a few more times. At one point, it felt like a sledgehammer hit the ship, the way it jolted everyone. All Royce and the other soldiers could do was sit tight and wait, hoping the fleeters could get them in position so they could execute their part of the mission.
“Stand by for launch,” one of the pilots said over their platoon coms.
Royce gripped his straps, then felt a sudden jolt as the Osprey catapulted out of the Midway into the blackness of space.
“Hang on. It may get a bit bumpy,” the pilot said, tension in his voice.
Royce patched his HUD into the cockpit so he could see the same view as the pilots. This was an option typically only available to the platoon or company commanders. What Royce saw made him wish he’d stayed ignorant of what was going on around him.
The blackness of space quickly filled with the image of this lush green-and-blue planet—but all around that beautiful planet were bright flashes of red and blue light arcing through the area around their Osprey. The pilots were doing their best to deftly dodge the incoming fire and the enemy fighters rising up from the planet to meet them.
One of the pilots pointed to something down on the planet. A second later, Royce saw a bright bolt of light emerge from where the pilot had been pointing as the energy burst headed in the direction of the Midway.
Those must be the ion cannons we’re supposed to take out, Royce realized.
Switching to a different video feed, Royce caught a glimpse of the Midway. The ship accelerated out of orbit now that it had dropped its human cargo. It looked to be taking a pounding from the ion cannon located on the planet’s surface.
From what Royce could see, the dropships were descending rapidly towards the surface. The F-97 Orion starfighters had the Zodark fighters fully occupied, which was a good thing as far as he was concerned.
Returning to the view the pilots had, Royce saw a small Zodark corvette get blown apart maybe fifty thousand kilometers to their right. A Prim destroyer had pounded it with a handful of lasers, cutting it apart.
Then what looked like a lightning bolt shot out from the planet below and slammed into the Prim destroyer, ripping a huge gash in it. The allied destroyer tried to angle away from the planetary ion cannon.
The Osprey suddenly broke through the upper atmosphere, and Royce’s heart skipped a beat. Small ships or fighters materialized out of the clouds, sending blazing energy beams right at them. The pilots flying the Osprey made a series of wild twists and turns as they ducked and dodged the incoming fire. The Orion starfighters flying escort duty dove into the enemy formations, their guns blazing.
“We’re sixty seconds out from jump altitude. Prepare to get the hell out of here,” the pilot yelled urgently over the radio.
Royce observed his company in the back of the craft. They were all holding on to something tightly or gripping their rifle like someone was trying to take it away from them. He could tell they were scared, and rightly so. The world around them was lighting up with laser fire, and all they could do was sit tight and wait to either jump or get blown up.
The crew chief stood near the rear ramp of the bird, his magnetic boots holding him in place as he lowered the ramp. They were finally near the jump location.
As the pilots approached the drop zone, the Osprey, which had been in a near-constant dive, pulled up hard. Everyone in the back grabbed for something to hold on to as they fought against the sudden change in g-forces from the maneuver.
The Osprey leveled out seconds later, and the pilots switched the jump light from red to green. “Get the hell out of the bird!” the crew chief roared at them.
“Time to go!” yelled Royce over the platoon net.
With no hesitation, he stood up and launched himself without fear into the wide-open air. As he fell away from the Osprey, he craned his neck around and saw the rest of his platoon doing the same. They were emptying out of the rear of the bird with disciplined speed.
Royce pulled his arms in tight and straightened his legs, making himself as aerodynamic as possible. His HUD told him he was picking up speed as he ticked down the altitude at an alarming rate.
Turning to catch one last glance behind him, Royce watched the Osprey angle practically straight up to head back into space and get out of there. He then saw an Orion starfighter blow two enemy fighters out of the sky, moments before that same fighter exploded from a direct hit by a third enemy aircraft. The starfighters were doing their best to cover the assault force while the Ospreys bugged out of the area and back to the Midway.
Returning his gaze to what was happening in front of him, Royce saw he was about to enter a cloud bank that had been obscuring his view of the surface. As his body raced through the clouds, moisture droplets pelted him and misted up the view through his face shield. A few minutes later, he was out of the cloud cover and saw the lush green tropical ground below getting much closer. Checking his HUD, Royce saw he was one minute away from his parachute automatically opening. He’d be on the ground in two minutes.
Off in the distance to his right, the giant ion cannon fired off another laser-like bolt, sending another ball of energy into orbit at one of the fleeters’ ships.
Royce reviewed his blue force tracker; all but one of his soldiers were showing green. The one soldier showing red had apparently been shot by an enemy fighter on the way down. Royce felt relieved he had only lost one Delta. He had known there might be enemy fighters in the area, but he really had no idea how many.
“Preparing to deploy the parachute,” an automated voice told him, moments before the chute attached to the rear of his exoskeleton combat suit opened. The steering cords dropped down for him to grab. Royce latched onto them quickly and angled his glidepath to a thinner section of the trees identified in their mission brief.
As he approached the ground, Royce scanned his surroundings. The trees appeared similar to palm trees on Earth. Ferns covered the soil, intermixed with other bushes and smaller trees. As he came closer to the ground, Royce realized the trees were taller than he’d expected.
Nearing the surface, Royce released his drop bag so it hung below his feet. He pulled down hard on his parachute cords, causing the chute to grab as much air as possible in a last-second maneuver to slow him down. As he came to the tree cover, he detached his chute, just like he had done a hundred times before in the simulators. His body free-fell into the trees. As his HUD alerted him he was near the ground, the small rockets built into the sides of his boots ignited, slowing his descent. Seconds later, his feet touched down on his third alien planet in five years.
With his feet firmly on the ground, Captain Royce released his rifle from his chest rig and followed his drop cord to his patrol pack. With his rifle and patrol pack ready, he looked around for the rest of his platoon.
Using his HUD, Royce got a quick view of the situation. All around him, his Deltas landed and prepared themselves and their equipment for action. He saw on the blue force tracker his squad leaders forming them up as the platoon sergeant got them ready to move.
Captain Royce linked up with the lieutenant, who was ready to roll as well. “Lieutenant, let’s move,” Royce said.
Just then, his first sergeant trotted up to him with the company comms specialist. The RTO was their direct link to the Midway and the fleet above them. He was followed behind by Royce’s first sergeant.
“Captain, we lost one soldier in the drop,” the first sergeant confirmed. “The other platoons are on the ground and moving to their objectives.”
“Thanks, Top. Let’s get moving,” Royce replied. “We’re racing against the clock now to get those guns taken offline.”
Lieutenant Karen Williams barked to her platoon, “First Squad, get us eyes on that cannon. Third and fourth squads, get those terminators ready to attack once we find them some targets. Second squad, deploy our drones, and let’s move.”
Williams was a new addition to Royce’s company, fresh from Delta school back on Earth—part of the new replacement crop intended to transition the C100s to a support position with the Deltas. The Special Forces community was still playing catch-up after the battles in the Rhea system—and it didn’t help that the Altairians had demanded they triple their forces in a short timeframe, either. The combat Synths were filling the gap, but no one liked the idea of running independent Synth units. The Earthers still didn’t fully trust autonomous AI units.
As the platoon and company level drones deployed, their radar and lidar waves sent detailed pictures of the area around them. The place was thick with vegetation and animals, and the terrain had some slight rises in elevation. In short order, the drones would expand the perimeter. As the other platoons’ drones linked up with each other, it would provide Royce with a comprehensive view of the entire area.
First Squad took off at a quick trot to the ion cannon, their HUDs guiding them. As the Special Forces soldiers moved forward, the operators let the drones scout ahead to identify any potential adversaries or obstacles as they advanced. Steadily, the platoon of Deltas advanced toward the enemy base ten kilometers away.
“Able Six, Archer Actual. How copy?” came the call over the battalion net.
Royce ducked under a low-hanging branch as he tried to keep up with everyone. Using his neurolink, he connected to his radio. “Archer Actual, Able Six. Send it.”
Suddenly a weird monkey-like animal jumped from one tall tree to another in front of Royce. What the hell was that?
“Able Six, I see your position. I need you to move three clicks to the northwest. Hold your position at this waypoint,” Major Hopper said as a spot on the map flashed on Royce’s HUD. The position was four clicks away from their current destination. “That’s a good copy,” he responded as he hopped over a fallen log. “You want the platoon or the company to relocate to that position?”
“The company. Out,” Hopper quickly replied.
Royce could tell Hopper was busy. He usually wasn’t that short with his answers. It was one of the problems with all the integrated technology an augmented super-soldier dealt with. Between the cybernetic implants, neurolinks, and an integrated HUD, it was challenging not to get inundated with information and fall flat on your face as you moved through unknown territory.
Telling his neurolink to sync him up with the company, Royce sent the adjustment to their orders and the new location. Each platoon leader sent an acknowledgment moments later. The blue force tracker showed everyone adjusting their positions on the map as the contingent of operators headed to the new location.
Moving deeper into the forest, Royce noticed the trees became bigger and taller. The base of some of these trunks had to be more than ten meters in diameter. His HUD told him the trees were between two hundred and even three hundred meters in height in some parts. It was truly awe-inspiring, even more so than the banyan-like trees he’d seen on New Eden.
When the platoon came within a kilometer of the new waypoint, Royce heard something that sent a shiver down his spine. No matter how many times he heard the loud shrieking battle cry of a Zodark warrior, it still caused him to tense up.
Those guys are close, Royce thought.
Seconds later, Royce heard the lone sound of a Zodark blaster. Then a cacophony of M85 and M90 rifles opened up on the Zodark.
Royce picked up the pace, trying to keep up with the platoon. They rushed to their comrades, who were now in the thick of the fight.
“Able Six, Able Two,” said Second Platoon leader. “We have two dozen Zodarks spread out in a nearby cluster of trees one hundred meters to our front. Requesting Able One flank their position to our right. How copy?”
Royce sent a message through the neurolink or NL for Lieutenant Williams to direct her platoon to flank the enemy. It was a good call, moving her people into an L position—it would prevent the Zodarks from running away.
Royce sent a message to his RTO and the first sergeant to follow him. They broke off from Lieutenant Williams’s platoon to assist Second Platoon—it sounded like they needed the help, given the volume of fire happening.
As they rushed toward the fighting, red bolts of light sliced through the forest toward Royce’s soldiers. Some of the fire came from up in the trees, some closer to ground level. The Special Forces soldiers threw a lot of slugs and blaster bolts right back at the enemy.
Since they weren’t confined to the close quarters of the ship or worried about punching a hole in something important, the Deltas with the M85s used the magrails on their rifles while the SAW gunners tore into the enemy with the blasters. In general, the Special Forces soldiers tended to favor the magrails over blasters. Unlike blasters, the railgun slugs could punch through obstacles at an incredible range. The blasters, however, had a higher cyclic rate of fire, which was why the Squad Automatic Weapons or SAWs only came as blasters.
When Royce closed in on the fighting, he stopped next to a tree and brought his own rifle to bear. His HUD had found a pair of Zodarks situated some eighty meters up in a tree, shooting down into a group of his soldiers. They’d found a knot or branch to serve as a platform from which to pick off the Earthers.
One of the Zodarks extended his body just beyond the branch he was hiding behind to fire on someone. In that instant, Royce’s targeting reticle illuminated green, and he fired. A couple of slugs crossed the distance in a fraction of a second, slamming into the upper chest and neck of the Zodark soldier. The massive blue beast fell backward and out of the tree, and his four arms flailed as his body fell to the ground below.
Seconds later, a rocket flew out of the position Royce had just shot at. It shot down into the forest and slammed into a clump of fallen logs and underbrush his soldiers had been using for cover. The explosion threw one of his soldiers into the air, a leg clearly missing from his body. Two other Deltas cried out in pain from the shrapnel hitting them.
A nearby Delta soldier fired his 20mm smart munition up into the tree where the rocket had originated. A small explosion blossomed in the moss and tree leaves. A single figure was thrown clear of the position, swinging his four arms to grab at something, anything as his body fell to the ground. The wounded Zodark landed with a thud and a loud shrieking noise, calling out to his comrades.
“Captain Royce, I’m showing several fast-approaching vehicles from the direction of the Zodark base,” announced the RTO, who was dual-hatting as a drone operator. “They’ll be on our position in a couple of minutes.”
“Lieutenant Anders, we have enemy inbound reinforcements,” Royce barked over the platoon net. “Deploy your C100s, and let’s end this!” Royce liked to let his platoon leaders take the initiative and deploy their forces as they saw fit, but his junior officers weren’t picking up on how fast changes were happening.
“I’m on it, sir,” came the swift reply.
Two dozen C100s moved past the Deltas, weapons up, and fired into the trees. As the automated killing machines went to work, the Zodarks shifted their fire to the Synths, recognizing them as the immediate threat.
A new noise rattled through the forest—Royce thought it sounded like an airplane as four hovercraft-like vehicles zipped into their line of sight. On top of each of the vehicles was what appeared to be a turret, each manned by a Zodark soldier firing a rapid-fire weapon at the C100s. Around a dozen Zodark soldiers emptied out of the rear of each vehicle.
The hovercrafts continued to lay down suppressive fire on the human and Synth soldiers as the Zodark soldiers charged right into the C100s with their shortswords drawn. One of the Deltas fired his 20mm smart munition at a hovercraft, scoring a direct hit on the front of the vehicle, causing it to veer out of control and slam into a tree. It collapsed to the ground below, out of commission.
The newly arrived Zodarks were now intermixed with the two dozen C100s Royce had just ordered forward, cutting them apart with their shortswords. Those electrified eighteen-inch blades had a way of slicing right through the armored shell and combat suit of the C100s. In a close-in fight, those handheld weapons were more dangerous and effective than their blasters were, and the enemy knew it.
“Holy crap! Those Zodarks are cutting our terminators apart,” called out the platoon sergeant.
“Everyone, shift fire to support the Synths,” barked Lieutenant Williams. “Take those Zodarks out!” Her voice was a bit shaky; she was unable to hide her nervousness at the changing situation.
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