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Even as Ben locks wits with the alien invaders, their plot to turn humanity against itself gains speed. But cracks begin to form in the plan.
Can Ada, Clarissa, and a group of pirates more interested in money and self-preservation than the rest of the galaxy really stop them in time?
Orion Inbound, the sixth book in the Oblivion series, is a high-octane, action-packed blast that will leave military science fiction fans hungry for more!
Release date: March 15, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 139
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) emotionally riveting (1) entertaining story (1) escapist/easy read (1) imaginative (1) plot twists (1) profanity-laced (1) realistic characters (1) rich setting(s) (1) satisfying ending (1) spine-tingling (1) suspenseful (1) tearjerker (1) terrific writing (1) thought-provoking (1) tragic (1) unputdownable (1) witty (1)
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A Pirate’s Life
Captain Daison Wan was only supposed to be on the AIC capital planet for a week. He’d do a little business, unload some cargo—legally procured and otherwise—and let the crew get a little rest and relaxation. He’d be off the rock before anyone was the wiser.
Things hadn’t turned out the way Wan had planned, but then again, when did they?
It had all gone to shit when his old friend LeFay had shown up for a night of poker while half his crew was in the city. She’d set up plenty of business for him over the years without giving him an ounce of respect, which was probably Wan’s relationship with half the people he considered friends.
She’d managed to get Wan drunker than usual, and then proceeded to taunt and insult him while taking all his money, before somehow goading him into putting his ship on the line. Since he always cheated at cards, he felt good about it—until he found out she cheated better than him.
Once she’d gathered all the money and most of Wan’s pride, she’d asked to take a tour of “her new ship.” Wan knew it was just to humiliate him, and he was waiting with a blaster to escort her out of the hangar when she got done gloating. There was no way she was getting his ship. She had to know that.
But the joke was on Wan when LeFay managed to kill the power to the hangar from within the ship, and then slipped out while Wan and the rest of his boys were trying to figure out what had happened.
He assumed that humiliation was the end of it, until one of the shit-for-brains he paid to maintain the ship told him the next day that LeFay had managed to somehow lock them out of the flight controls.
That had been on the second day on the planet. Wan knew that with enough money and enough bribes, he could find someone to fix what she’d done, but it was going to throw off his schedule and his profits. In the end, he was sure she’d be back in a week or two, demanding a piece of his action in return for letting him use her ship. Whatever. He could wait her out.
Two days later, he found out he was wrong. When the UEF attacked Vassar-1 with their huge dreadnoughts, Wan and the rest of his crew were trapped.
Wan was smart enough to not be courageous. He ordered his men to stay underground in their little base. Soon enough, whatever was happening would blow over. It always did. That’s how the universe worked. Once the coast was clear, he’d get a hacker to fix what LeFay had done, and they’d leave. Or, depending on the situation on-planet, look for a way to profit first, and then leave. His whole career had been built on these little disturbances in the universe.
This little disturbance, however, had grown out of hand. Wan had listened on his back-channel network as the word had gone out to the rest of the Outer Colonies about the battle over Vassar-1. He’d been as shocked as anyone when he’d learned the fight had led to the complete annihilation of the AIC capital.
The Outer Colonies were amassing their forces, dead set on getting revenge against Earth. There must be some command structure out there, because the official channels were full of surprisingly accurate chatter. A counterattack was coming. Wan could feel it in his pirate bones. While there might be profit in that, too, he’d had enough of this little high-stakes drama. He was ready to get off-planet and on his way.
So when LeFay had shown up at the blast doors, he’d wanted to kiss her.
But kissing the woman that had left his crew’s life in danger—who was he kidding, his life in danger—wasn’t good for his reputation. So he was an asshole instead.
“Give me the goddamn code, LeFay,” he said as he walked alongside the cyborg cardsharp and the three roughed-up strangers he’d just let into the base.
LeFay rolled her eyes, but otherwise didn’t slow down. “Not until we’re on board,” she replied.
“We didn’t agree to that.”
“Code for passage off this hellscape. That’s the deal. And throw in some medical attention for my friends.”
Wan glanced back at her ‘friends’ without acknowledging them. “You’re lucky I’m not feeling well today, or I’d personally pry those codes out from the wires and chips that make up your brain.”
Wan was moving a little slower than usual. Years ago he’d been struck with Eruvian Lung while spending some quality time on the flying prison above Erol. Just a slight misunderstanding involving freight ownership. He’d lost his profit, and only come away with a creeping sickness to show for it. It was non-life threatening, but debilitating when the stars aligned against him.
“You’re half my size soaking wet,” LeFay said dismissively.
Wan was used to this. He was regularly underestimated for his size and stamina. But LeFay didn’t seem like the type to underestimate anyone, at least not unless it was to her advantage, which meant she was probably just stating the truth as she saw it. He really did like the cynical bitch.
“Where is everyone?” LeFay asked without skipping a beat. “After the humiliation, did they up and leave you?”
‘Everyone,’ Wan knew, was the three members of his crew that had been at the poker table last week.
“Hardin died in a shootout with those creepy cultist bastards,” Wan said.
LeFay shrugged. “Happens these days. And Talos? I liked her.”
Of course you did, Wan thought. She laughed at your jokes. “Talos went out on a food run just before the fighting started up there, and we haven’t seen her since.”
“And Kelso?” LeFay asked. “Let me guess. He’s probably just fine.”
“He’s working on the ship.” Wan hooked a thumb at the ship in question, the Orion.
The Orion was a customized corsair. She’d started out life as a cruiser, but Wan had converted and armed her to fight space battles, board other ships and, most importantly, outrun any authorities. In short, she was a formidable ship.
Kelso, a big strong man who looked as dumb as a bag of rocks, worked on the exterior, pounding away with a mallet.
“Called it,” LeFay said triumphantly. “Always bet on the dumb ones.”
“Wait,” said a skinny woman with crafty eyes who was following along behind LeFay. “Working on the ship? Is it not ready to go?”
“Who the hell are you?” Wan asked dismissively.
“Be nice,” LeFay said. “Remember who the boss is around here, short stuff.”
“My ship,” she said. “Remember?”
“So is it ready or not?” asked the skinny woman. She crossed her arms like she was owed something from Wan, when he’d barely laid eyes on her before. Still, he’d seen enough trouble in his life to know it when he saw it.
“She’s ready,” he sneered. “We’re just working on it to work on it. We’re always working on it. Right now the lughead’s hammering out some dents. What else are these mouth breathers gonna do when we’re cooped up down here?”
“If it’s ready, then what are we waiting for?” asked LeFay.
“Other than for you to unlock the flight controls? Nothing at all.”
“Good,” LeFay said.
Wan scratched his scraggly, braided beard. LeFay was a hard one to read. He knew she was modified to hell and back, but he had a feeling she hadn’t been all warm and fuzzy to begin with. Still, he needed his damn flight controls, and frankly, he could use someone like LeFay. The most powerful enemies made the best friends, his father used to say, or maybe he’d read that somewhere. Hell, who could say?
“Let’s get aboard, then,” Wan said. “So we can leave this hellhole planet.”
“I like the sound of that,” said the woman behind LeFay. She was getting on Wan’s nerves.
“Hurry up,” LeFay said. It wasn’t clear if it was to him or the rest of her group.
Wan replied by mumbling some expletives under his breath.
“I said follow me, you damn devil woman,” Wan said as he led them up the extended loading ramp into the Orion. He waved at Kelso. “Kelso. This is LeFay and … others,” he said, barely acknowledging the rest of the group.
“You know me, Kelso,” LeFay said. “I still have a good chunk of your money.”
The big man grunted.
“These are my friends Clarissa, Ada, and Tomas,” LeFay said.
Wan noted the loudmouth was named Clarissa. The one called Ada was pale, and looked to be in rough shape. Tomas just looked generally angry, which he could sympathize with.
Kelso smiled with a mouth filled with maybe six or seven teeth, and waved with inexplicable enthusiasm at the cyborg woman and her motley group. There was no understanding Kelso sometimes.
“Is he…right in the head?” asked LeFay. “I remember him being quiet, but not stupid.”
“Then you remember wrong,” Wan said flatly. “He’s not one for words, or ideas, or concepts.”
“But he’s your engineer?” Tomas said incredulously.
Wan shrugged. “He’s a hell of an engineer. Really a damn savant. Ain’t that right, Kelso?”
“I bang until it’s right!”
Wan led the group further into the Orion, thoroughly enjoying the stunned silence of those following.
Tomas tried to keep focused as Wan gave his tour of the ship, but the pure insanity of what was happening was beginning to sink in.
Wan brought them to the med bay, and Tomas couldn’t help but think that the reason was the shape of his new guests. Tomas was still nursing his wounds—as was Ada, who stoically refused to slow down for anything—but he could sense how stiff she was as they walked. She had to be hurting.
The medical space was surprisingly well-equipped and clean, better than Tomas had hoped for. The whole ship looked a lot better inside than out. For all his character flaws and illegal activities, Wan seemed to be a stickler for cleanliness and order, which Tomas could immediately appreciate.
“Our nurse, doctor, surgeon, all-around special gal, Doc Congo,” Wan said, indicating a person with their back turned to the group, inspecting a restoration pod. “And also the only person aboard with medical skills.”
The woman spun around in her stool. She was a surprisingly tall woman with a slender, attractive face. Her short-cropped green hair didn’t cover her ears, which sported rings that virtually covered them in metal. What really stood out, though, was the crucifix on a chain around her neck. Christianity was an antiquated, rarely-encountered religion on Vassar-1, or any planet.
Tomas nodded, as did Clarissa. LeFay didn’t seem to bother looking up, and Ada was too weak to do much more than stare.
“Oh, lord, what have you brought me this time, Wan?” the woman said in a thick accent. She had an odd look on her face, a mixture of concern and annoyance.
“A couple of new friends, temporary crew members. They’re all banged up, need some patching. Think you can take care of them?”
The doctor was already ignoring Wan and eying up Tomas and Ada. Her gaze lingered on the latter with growing concern. “Damn. What else am I gonna do?”
“Make it quick,” Wan said, before he started leading Clarissa and LeFay out of the med bay.
“What’s the rush?” Congo asked.
“We’re getting off this damn planet,” Wan said.
“Finally,” mumbled Congo. Then she addressed Tomas and Ada. “You two, take a seat over there so I can take a look at you.”
Tomas helped the half-conscious Ada over to one of three med bay beds. He gently helped her sit down and, with one hand on the small of her back, kept her upright.
She didn’t acknowledge his help, but didn’t pull away either. Tomas considered that the most worrisome part of it all. The self-sufficient Ada he knew surely would have, if she could.
All the while, his own chest burned. His third-degree burns being exposed to open air and, as a result, infection, didn’t help.
“Those are some bad burns, my friend. What’s your name?” asked Congo.
“Tomas Ruis, but don’t worry about me. She needs help more than I do.”
“You sure about that? Those are bad. Phosphorous?” asked Congo as she moved her rolling stool to get a closer look at Tomas’ chest.
“Stupidity, really. Is your name really ‘Congo’?”
“Don’t be stupid. Of course not, but no one on this ship seems capable or willing to try and pronounce my real name. So instead they use ‘Congo,’ because that’s what Wan came up with, for some damn reason.” Congo got up. She looked to one of the many shelves behind glass doors in the med bay. From one she took out a stim shot and some memory bandages.
“So what’s your real name?” Tomas wanted to make awkward small talk to distract him from what he knew was coming.
Congo stabbed Tomas, without warning, in his stomach with the stim shot. It instantly flooded his veins and tissue with a numbing morphine-like pain killer. There was also another aspect of the stim shot: artificial adrenaline that would keep him awake. Those injection pens were meant for soldiers, not hospital patients, but the end result was close enough and did the job.
“Not important. Now, this is gonna hurt. I have to clean the wounds.” Congo had the bandages in one hand and a UV purifier in the other. The intense light would literally burn out and kill any bacteria that managed to cling onto Tomas’ wounds.
It wasn’t that soldiers were inherently tougher than civilians. Not at all. Nor were they more impervious to pain; nor did they feel it any less. Even with the numbing effect of the stim shot, Tomas felt every little bit of agony as the UV purifier was run back and forth inches from the burns on his chest. All he wanted to do was yell out in pain: curse the gods, the Shapeless, Saito, the cultists, and Doc Congo herself. Instead he shook a little, sweated a lot, and stayed silent.
Once the UV purification was done, Congo wrapped the form-fitting memory bandages around his chest and back. They vacuum sealed to his body for an uncomfortably tight but beneficial fit. All that was left was for him to wait for his body to heal. Topical medications on the bandages would help speed the progress along.
“Okay, now, let’s see what’s going on here with your friend,” said Congo as she pulled down a medical scanner that was on an arm attached to one wall. She switched it on, showing an x-ray view through the viewfinder.
“Ada. Her name is Ada,” Tomas informed her.
“Okay, let’s see what’s going with Ada here.” Congo moved the medical scanner all around Ada’s body. From the furrowing of her brow and surprised looks, Tomas could tell that something was up. She was seeing something bad on the viewfinder.
“What is it? What’s wrong?”
Congo shot up. “Help me get her up and undressed. Hurry!” The doc’s demeanor completely changed. She went from a little annoyed and businesslike to worried. That, of course, sent Tomas’ head into a tailspin.
“What is it?”
“Your friend has some severe internal injuries. Since we can’t operate, because I have no idea how to fix that much damage, we need to get her in the tank, or she’ll bleed out from the inside. Heck, she still might, but this is her only shot.”
“Okay, so this is the bridge,” Wan said sarcastically.
Clarissa rolled her eyes. There was clearly some animosity between Wan and LeFay that was playing out here, but she could also tell that Wan was an asshole—which pretty much summed up her opinion of most pirates, particularly bottom-feeders like Wan.
Orion’s bridge was impressive. It was about three times the size of the one on the Lost, and Clarissa had to admit she found it a bit intimidating. Though it was more modern, it was also a little more messy. They had clearly made some massive customizations to the pilot’s station.
“What is going on here?” she asked no one in particular.
“Perfection. That’s what’s going on here,” answered someone from the main pilot’s chair.
“And here’s our oh-so-pleasant pilot, Johannes “Falcon” Dotterson. We just call him ‘Falcon’ for short.”
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