It ends here. The warring factions of humanity have finally realized the common foe descending upon them from the depths of the galaxy and have turned as one to defend mankind’s home. But it might already be too late for Earth. As the devastation plays out on the surface of the moon and above the most powerful city on Earth, the only chance humanity has lies millions of miles away on a planet no human has seen. Can Captain Lee Saito fulfill his long-thwarted mission and bring peace to the galaxy or will humanity pay the ultimate price? Last Stand, the thrilling final book in the Oblivion series, is a high-octane, action-packed blast that will leave military science fiction fans breathless!
Release date: June 8, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 136
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Ducar looked out on the city of Annapolis below while sitting on the edge of the open hovercopter that Oblivion had forcefully acquired two weeks earlier from a UEF depot out in the middle of nowhere. In the copter with him was a cadre of fellow cultists, zealots like himself. All were fully armed, all ready for the mayhem to come.
But Ducar and the other cultists weren’t alone in the hovercopter. Taking up the room that could’ve been reserved for more cultists were canisters filled with an oily black living substance. Freshly delivered from the moon, they were Shapeless, just waiting to be unleashed.
Ducar got an incoming video call: Anita Lau’s face appeared in the video call square in his HUD. “You’re running late.”
“We had a bit of a problem, back outside the base,” Ducar was referring to a city sentinel officer who’d just happened upon them when they were loading up the hovercopters. That cop was dead in a gutter.
“Nothing I couldn’t or didn’t handle. Other than that, everything is moving forward as planned, ma’am.”
“Good. Good. Remember, every officer you can, I need you and your men to kill as many as possible.”
“We will. I promise. You can count on us.”
Anita Lau ended the call, and right on time. Ducar could see that they were getting close. His group’s target was the new officers’ building, moved after the Oblivion’s attack months earlier, now meant to be hidden in the middle of downtown Annapolis. The other dozen hovercopters in the air with him had their own objectives. Some targeted the city’s anti-air defenses. Others went after the docks scattered around the cityscape. All of them took advantage of the morning smog to stay hidden.
Ducar opened up a holographic picture of his lost love, Vesta. Everything he was about to do wasn’t for Anita Lau of Waterman-Lau. It wasn’t for the Saviors. It wasn’t even for himself. It was all going to be for revenge: revenge for the only woman, only person he’d ever truly cared about.
“Okay, let’s go. It’s zero hour.” Ducar ordered all the hovercopters to land and get to work. “Good luck, and I’ll see all of you in the Abyss.”
“In the Abyss,” repeated numerous other zealots, all in charge of their own copters.
Ducar’s hovercopter lowered through the smog and landed on top of the Royalty Towers, the new home of Annapolis’ and most of the UEF’s top military brass. He jumped out, along with six other heavily-armed zealots. They all put on their masks and checked their weapons as their ride flew away.
“Everyone grab a canister. Attach it to your packs, just like we trained for. Don’t release them until my order. Understood?” Ducar addressed his men. They all nodded. “We got those doors open yet?”
he asked one member of his team, who was using a stolen all-access key from the dead city sentinel to open all the apartment building’s doors at once.
“We’re in,” answered the more tech-savvy zealot.
“Good. Let’s bring these poor ignorant bastards salvation.”
Ducar led the way down off the roof and into the Royalty Towers proper. The opening of all the building’s doors had the intended effect. On the uppermost floor, the residents stuck their heads out to see what the hell was happening. They were met by Ducar and the zealots, who didn’t hesitate to open fire.
After shooting one poor woman in her head, Ducar entered the first apartment he came across. From its size, the décor, and the fact that it was on the top level of this exclusive building, he knew that whoever lived here must’ve been important. Sure enough, after seeing what was his wife get shot, a UEF general came out of his bedroom, pistol in hand, firing and cursing at the heavily-armored zealot.
Bullets hit, but were absorbed and bounced off Ducar’s high-density dragon-weave Kevlar armor, which covered almost his whole body. He callously shot the general in the chest, then walked over to him on the floor and fired again to make sure he was dead.
He heard kids crying from the other room. His work wasn’t done in this apartment.
Covered in blood, Ducar left the first apartment and reentered the hallway. He was numb to the cries for mercy, the gunshots and screaming. To him this wasn’t murder; this wasn’t a slaughter. To him this was a mercy, a release from a world of pain and suffering. To him it was also vengeance.
Ignoring the chaos around him, Ducar walked towards a door at the end of the hall. One of his fellow zealots was posted up by the doorway, looking to avoid semi-automatic gunfire coming from within the apartment. Ducar calmly approached, not taking any precautions against getting shot.
On the way, Ducar passed open doorways where true nightmares were taking place. The zealots had been chosen not only for the strength of their beliefs, but for their brutality in following through with them. Men, women, children, even pets: no one and nothing was spared as they went room to room, shooting anything that moved.
“This bastard’s dug in deep, sir!” yelled the zealot pinned down outside the open door.
“Not a problem.” Ducar dropped down to one knee. He reached to his back, where one of the canisters was attached to his backpack. After taking it off, he looked at it for a minute, transfixed by the beauty of what was inside. A button press and a turn of the lid later, and the canister opened up.
Ducar happily watched as the living black oil jumped out of the canister. It grew in size tenfold, until it was a little larger than an adult human. Tendrils, spikes, and blades waving around in all directions, its razor-sharp tooth-lined mouth let out a loud shriek before it rushed into the apartment.
It wasn’t until he heard screams of horror and pain that Ducar entered the apartment. For a moment he watched as the Shapeless he’d unleashed savagely ripped a general and his family to pieces. He moved on to the wall-sized windows in the family room.
Ducar was pleased with what he saw. There were fires, freshly lit, all over the Annapolis skyline. A couple of explosions marked the successful destruction of some planetary anti-air guns. Emergency sirens could be heard even through the thick glass. Panic, confusion, and fear; that was what he and the other zealots wanted to instill. It was the perfect canvas for the coming Shapeless to paint their perfect picture of death and peace.
“It’s beautiful, sir.” The zealot that had previously been pinned down outside the apartment stood next to Ducar, looking out the windows.
“It is.” Ducar loaded another magazine into his rifle. “Come, we have sixty-one more floors to go.”
An Uneasy Alliance
“I’m not happy about this.” AIC Commodore Thorne—a proud man, and stubborn to boot—sat in Captain Rhule’s quarters, right across from the second-highest ranking AIC officer left after the battles on Europa and the destruction of Vassar-1.
“None of us are, Commodore, but this is the only way. You saw what those things can do. We can’t afford to keep fighting each other when these alien things…” Rhule paused for a moment, giving Ben an opening.
“Shapeless,” added Ben.
“Yes, these Shapeless intend on wiping humankind out. And they’re clearly capable. I’ve already been in contact with Grand Admiral Lane of the UEF. He’s agreed that all available UEF assets not on Earth will be diverted back home to protect it. We’ll rendezvous with them.”
“And they just trusted you at your word?” questioned Thorne.
“We sent data on the whole encounter down there on Europa. We know they have their own sources, too. They didn’t need to trust me. They knew.”
Thorne took a moment to think, though there was only one possible conclusion to come to. “Okay. We have a truce for now.” He got up. His two bodyguards joined him at his side. “I need to tell our admirals and what’s left of our fleets. I promise I’ll make sure that they listen.”
Rhule shook Thorne’s hand. “I’m glad to hear it, and it’s going to be an honor to fight at your side. We have a base on Earth’s moon, and some docks with more ships. We’ll rendezvous with you and yours there, as soon as possible.”
“Sounds good, Commander. Best of luck.” With that, a very grumpy Thorne left Rhule’s office on the AIC Veruvian to return to his own ship.
“That went…well?” Ben had sat in on the whole uncomfortable meeting. Just an hour before, the UEF and AIC had been actively killing each other. Now the most bullish of those on either side had agreed to not only stand down, but to fight alongside their decades-long enemy. So that talk was a bit intense, emotionally charged just beneath the surface of military officers’ politeness.
“He really is an old stubborn bastard, but we got their help. That’s all that matters. And I wouldn’t have gotten it without your help, Ben, so thank you.” Rhule refused to sit back down. “Now all we have to do is come up with some kind of battle plan.”
“How many ships do you have left?” asked Ada. She sat in a chair in the corner. Unlike Clarissa, Congo and Wan, she was a soldier, and that seemed to count for enough in Rhule’s book that she’d been allowed to sit in. Ben supposed it spoke to the general opinion of Engano and her department that a UEF soldier qualified over an AIC operative like Clarissa.
Rhule sighed. “Not enough.”
“We have to make do with what we’ve got. Have you gotten in contact with Annapolis?”
“I’m working on it.”
Ben tilted his head to the side. “Working on it?”
“They’re going to take a little more convincing than the Grand Admiral. He’s a soldier, and gets the logistics and implications of what’s to come. Annapolis is full of politicians. Earth politicians. Getting them to risk their positions at the polls by putting the planet on high alert, that’s going to take more than some data feeds.”
Ben walked over to the window in Rhule’s office. Through it he saw the Jovian moon still in the process of dying, and the Shapeless ship slowly departing, having already done the hideous deed it was there to do. There was no doubt in his mind that it was leaving for Earth.
“That’s not enough,” Ada said. She was leaning forward in the chair now, hands clasped in front of her like she was ready to spring into a fight at any moment. “You have to make them see.”
Rhule shrugged. “Greasing the wheels of bureaucracy is Engano’s game, not mine. She’s consider a snake on Earth, so this is falling to me. And frankly, Earth is obstinate. My understanding is you have to have … patience.” It seemed like the word pained him.
“Patience?” Ben felt sick. “I don’t think you really realize what this means.”
“I do,” Rhule said. “But they—"
“Before,” Ben said, talking over Rhule, “all we had to worry about was these things invading Earth. And that was bad enough.” He waved his hand. “Some planetary assault, followed by these damn gooey monsters in every city across the planet. But now, now they have a weapon that can, at least in theory, destroy an entire planet. My planet!”
Rhule slammed his hand into his fist. “Don’t lecture me!” he thundered.
Ben was shocked into silence. Even Ada leaned back in her chair. “Maybe you’ve forgotten,” Rhule said slowly, visibly working his jaw to keep his voice in check, “but that invasion of Earth you’re so worried about already happened to my home. On my watch.”
Ben flinched. Had he known that Rhule was from Vassar-1? He was probably home-ported there, so he obviously considered it his spiritual home, no matter where he was from among the Outer Worlds.
“I’m sorry.” Ben pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re right. These things have already killed so many.”
Ada stood up, seemingly spurred on by Rhule’s outburst. “But that’s exactly why we have to stop them together. Individually, they’ll tear us apart. And that’s exactly their plan.”
Rhule sighed, calming himself as he looked from Ada to Ben and back again. “If I could get anyone on Earth to listen, I’d gladly explain that to them.”
Ben shook his head. “Bureaucracy can’t be involved. Everyone back home needs to scramble every damn ship they have, arm everyone who can fire a damn gun and get ready to fight for their lives.”
He turned and looked back out the large viewport. When he realized Rhule hadn’t spoken for several seconds, he turned to find Rhule was studying him and Ada.
“You two have way too much passion and way too little cynicism. Do you know that?”
Ben didn’t need compliments. He needed help, and he hated asking for help from anyone. He wanted to make it happen himself. Right now.
“I can do it,” Ben said. “I can fly back to Earth and—"
Ada leapt to her feet. “Not without me.”
“No,” Rhule said sharply. “Give me more credit than that. I have … other channels to pursue. And Engano might be a pariah, but she still has contacts of her own. We can convince these assholes that they don’t want to be the ones in office when Earth falls.” He cocked his head. “Besides, I have something more important that you two can do right here.”
Ben snorted. “More important than getting Earth off their collective asses?”
Rhule held Ben’s gaze. “I need you and your people in the assembly room.”
Ben assumed he meant Clarissa, Congo, and Wan. He wasn’t sure if he’d call them his people. If anything, they were Ada’s people. He exchanged a quick glance with her. She frowned back.
“The assembly room?” he asked.
“No one on board knows these creatures better than you folks,” Rhule said. “I want you to brief the fleet. We’ll be making fold jumps to near-Earth orbit soon. My people are antsy. They’re smart enough to know we’re risking it all by jumping in the UEF’s lap. They don’t understand the alien threat, not like I do. And I don’t understand it like you do.”
“Brief the fleet?” Ben felt like his mind was going a bit slow.
“Like you said, billions of lives are on the line. They need to know what you know, but they also need to see the same passion you just gave me. Trust me, kid. You got it.”
“Same thing your dad had. The ability to inspire and lead. Don’t waste that gift. Because I got to tell you, it’s rare.”
Ada chalked it up to chauvinism, pure and simple, that Rhule was only interested in Ben giving this little talk. And she was fine with that. She had better things to do than give speeches.
But as they walked through the halls of the Veruvian, she could feel that Ben was nervous. Hell, she could see it written on his face.
“What the hell am I going to say?” he murmured.
Ada thought about that. “In my experience, it doesn’t matter. What’s happening is happening, whether they like it or not. All you’re doing is giving them a reason to push through when the shit hits the fan.”
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