Soldiers missing. Beasts spotted outside the wire. Stay frosty.
Thanks to efforts by colonists to highlight what occurs naturally, an alien planet has a breathable atmosphere, plentiful water sources, beautiful landscapes, and flourishing wildlife, just like on Earth.
And for the humans, therein lies the problem…
Captain Nev and his squad, who are tasked with locating missing soldiers, suddenly find themselves at war with the fierce beasts. As they desperately fight for survival against this cunning, brutal, and relentless enemy, the devastating secrets of their mission are revealed.
Release date: March 7, 2015
Publisher: C.A. Gleason
Print pages: 135
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
Planet Tuhrelevim. 93 percent uncharted. Integration of acclimatized human population delayed.
At Fort Beckett, Captain Nev was on his weekend run. He ran alone and always at 5:00 a.m. sharp, to stay tip-top. This was in addition to running with his platoon Monday through Friday. His route was four times around the inside of the base, equivalent to roughly six miles.
A soldier on CQ duty emerged from the headquarters building and yelled to Nev as he passed, but Nev didn’t hear him. The track vehicles were rolling past; the mechanics were working through the weekend again. The soldier slung his weapon and ran after him.
Nev turned and jogged in place.
“Orders, sir,” he said, handing over an envelope. “Good day, sir.”
“Good day, soldier.”
The soldier had accomplished his mission and range walked back to his post.
Nev decided to end his run and walk it out. He only had a lap left anyway. He felt sweat trickle down his head as he ripped open the envelope.
Nev stood at the front of the briefing room doing roll call, mentally evaluating his soldiers.
Brutton was short and stocky, so much so that he’d been nicknamed “Bowling Ball” by his teammates on his high-school football team.
“Staff Sergeant Clark.”
The squad’s section chief was the kind of skinny that a belt hardly helped. Nev knew him when he first came in. He’d been ordered to eat more, and he did, but it didn’t help. His metabolism was just too fast.
“Here, sir!” Grady said.
The squad laughed at his enthusiasm. Grady had joined the military when he was older than most. When he began his military career, he didn’t have the energy that the younger soldiers had, and he’d been razzed about his lack of motivation.
“Here, sir,” Jenkins said.
When a safety briefing was given before a weekend—no fighting, drugs, or anything else that would get a soldier in trouble—it was meant for soldiers like Private First Class Jenkins. He just liked to fight. His nose had been broken at a bar his first week at permanent party, and he never got it fixed.
“Staff Sergeant Lagler.”
Lagler was one of the most focused and motivated soldiers Nev had ever had the pleasure of serving with. It was why he was in charge of the armory.
“Should I stand, sir?”
The others laughed. McRae’s six-foot, six-inch frame loomed over the other troops even while sitting.
“Shut up, Specialist. Where’s my medic at?”
“Sir,” O’Meara said.
Specialist O’Meara lifted weights any chance he got, usually with Brutton, and his uniforms barely fit him.
“What have you done to yourself?” McRae said.
O’Meara smirked. “Don’t hate.”
Nev folded his hands behind his back. “Any questions?”
Grady raised his hand. “Do we get cooks on this one, sir?”
“Do we ever? MREs, you get first pick, Private.”
“Any other good news, sir?” Clark said.
“No smoking on this one.”
“Bring the alternatives if you need to and use litter discipline.”
Grady pantomimed smoking a cigarette. “I’m going to smoke about a pack tonight.”
“I’ll be laughing at you on our next run,” Jenkins said.
Nev went to the position of attention. “On your feet!”
The rest of the soldiers stood and snapped to attention as Colonel Horne entered.
“As you were, gentlemen,” Horne bellowed.
The men sat down again, and Captain Nev joined them.
Horne marched to the front of the room and turned toward the men. He was tall, barrel chested, and had a commanding voice, probably even while ordering coffee. “Men, you’ve read your orders.”
Nev knew some of the missing soldiers. “Sir, anything we should know about the previous mission that would assist us in locating them?”
“Unfortunately, their mission and yours are classified. We’ve speculated there may be similarities to the Ontarian situation, but we aren’t certain.”
“What was their location before contact was lost?”
“Roughly fifteen hundred klicks.”
“That’s over nine hundred miles,” Grady whispered.
“No shit,” Jenkins whispered back.
Nev turned to Clark, and Clark made a half turn, giving an annoyed look. Grady’s and Jenkins’s military bearing returned.
“How many probes have been sent?” Nev said.
“Hundreds,” Horne said. “None have been able to send back data.”
“Any idea why?”
“We aren’t sure. This planet is as foreign to us as Earth’s oceans in the twentieth century. My guess is the weather. That’s where you come in. After you assess the location, send a transmission. I’ll send more probes. Hopefully they’ll make it through.”
“Anything else required from the mission, sir?”
“Other than searching for survivors, no.”
The door behind Horne opened, and a sinewy man with glasses came into the room. He had blond hair that was nearly white, and he was wearing a jumpsuit.
“This is Doctor Nimbus, biologist. He’s helped us on previous missions. He knows this planet better than anyone. Knows the geography and the wildlife. He’ll be assisting you in any way he can. We’ve paid him enough for that.”
“Putting the mission aside, the territory you’re going to is like nothing you’ve ever seen. Beautiful. Like Earth, so I’ve been told. Good luck.”
Later outside, the squad smoked and joked. Nev focused on the aircraft behind the pilots, Chief Warrant Officers Miller and Gilroy.
“It’s an Adelpa,” Gilroy said.
“Adelpa two,” Nev said, looking the aircraft over.
Gilroy smiled. Adelpa 2s were perfect for low-altitude travel. Nev had never flown in one; he’d only been flown into battle on the Adelpa 1, but he knew that they were lightweight and spryly maneuverable, yet they could fly a decent amount of cargo.
Nev saw the men were antsy; the smokers had snuffed their butts. “Weapons brief. Let’s go.”
A waist-high stone wall separated the firing area from the range, and a large case was located in the corner.
“Men, prepare to be impressed,” Nev said.
He raised the top of the case to reveal two pod-shaped cannons. Beside them were two controls that each had a stock, handle, trigger, and a digital sight lens but no barrel.
“Is that what I think it is?” Lagler said.
Nev hefted one of the cannons out of the case and laid it on the floor. He retrieved the control and flipped a switch down with his thumb, which activated it. The cannon immediately jolted to life and rose, hovering over Nev’s right shoulder.
“This is the M-three-three-one-A-two weapon system, a.k.a. the Shoulder Devil. Sixty-three pounds on its own, two thousand five hundred sixty-three pounds fully loaded.”
“Damn,” Grady said.
“Don’t let it fall on your toe.”
The men laughed.
“Looks like it belongs on a tank. We all get one?” McRae said.
“You wish,” Nev said. “Just these two. Standard Rovla assault rifles for everybody as usual.”
McRae made a disgusted sound.
“Why the big guns, sir?” Grady said.
“Apparently required for where we’re going—possibility of animal attacks. Previous missions reported seeing something watching them from a distance. Anyway, it has a magnetic levitation system to handle its weight and recoil. Wherever you aim the control, it targets with surgical precision. Also works for you lefties, Clark.”
Nev passed the controller over to Clark, who held it with his left hand, and the SD moved over his left shoulder.
“Obviously you fire it by pulling the trigger. There’s a three-second delay to seat the twenty-millimeter rounds before firing. Ammo is stacked and packed in the Devil itself.”
Clark passed it to O’Meara.
“What’s its capacity?” O’Meara said.
“Ten thousand rounds.”
“What about its rate of fire, sir?” Jenkins said.
“Five thousand rounds a minute. It’s not without its bugs, though. You’ll hear it stutter if the rounds have to seat again, leaving the controller at risk, a glitch still present from the experimental model. Side arms are recommended in a pinch.”
Lagler held out his hand, and O’Meara passed the SD controller to him. “Heard about ’em, but never held one.” Lagler examined it. Then he looked up behind him and raised and lowered the controller. The SD mimicked his movements perfectly. “Will you tell us about distant targeting, sir?”
“Distant targets aren’t a problem because the Shoulder Devil will ascend to the appropriate height and can even be deployed to hunt down and kill each target.”
“How high will it go?” Lagler said.
“Sixty meters, approximately. Height targeting dramatically increases ballistics capability, which means you could put rounds on a target from miles away if it can be tagged accurately. Multiple targets can be tagged within the scope, which registers in the Devil’s computer, and if you don’t want to deploy them, you can tag targets to reach a certain distance before they’re fired upon for maximum destructive capability.”
“Holy shit. What if they don’t reach that distance?” Lagler said.
“Then they won’t fire,” Nev said.
“Can I see it?” Brutton said.
Lagler passed the controller to him. “What about reloading?”
“It travels to the automated ammo box when commanded, reloads, and comes back.”
“How do they coordinate when both are fired at once?” Lagler said.
“They’re independent, but their data is linked. Targets that are tagged register with both weapon systems. No duplicates. You can fight a war on your own.”
“How loud are they?” Jenkins said.
“Loud. Earplugs are mandatory, and the Shoulder Devils are for emergencies only. Right, Nimbus?”
Nimbus looked bored. “I’ve never seen them fire.”
“You have, though, haven’t you, sir?” Lagler said.
Nev took the controller back from Brutton. “Yes, one of the first models.”
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...