Read Fractured Mind Episode One (A Galactic Coalition Academy Series) Online

Authors: Odette C. Bell

Tags: #space opera, #sci fi action adventure, #space opera romance, #sci fi action adventure romance, #science fiction action romance, #science fiction romance adventure

Fractured Mind Episode One (A Galactic Coalition Academy Series) (3 page)

BOOK: Fractured Mind Episode One (A Galactic Coalition Academy Series)
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The Milky Way was more violent now. Every
day a new skirmish broke out. Whether it was between the Barbarians
or the Kore, or even deep within Coalition space.

Bottom line – it was too dangerous out there
to vest responsibility in someone like Sinclair.

Especially not now. Not with the growing
threat of the Ornax.

He straightened, his gut clenching like a
fist. All it took was one thought about the Ornax to send his body
into fight mode.

He felt the blood pump hard up his throat,
his muscles contracting as he drew his teeth into a stiff line.

Doctor Wallace saw him striding forward and
frowned. “What is it, lieutenant?”

“I need a checkup.”

“This is a first – I usually have to drag
you in here.”

“I'm having pain,” Karax admitted as he
shifted his neck from side-to-side. He could feel his cybernetic
implants sliding uncomfortably down his shoulders and into his
spine.

Karax's spine and most of his left shoulder
had been replaced with durable robotic implants. But no matter how
durable they were, they still had to be checked. Constantly. Karax
put them through so much of a pounding, he was continually pulling
them out of alignment.

Wallace raised an eyebrow as he plucked a
scanner up. “You must be in considerable pain if you've volunteered
for a check-up.”

Karax didn't say anything.

Wallace let out a light sigh. “There you go
– you've done it again. Your left latissimus dorsi has pulled your
14th cybernetic vertebra out of alignment. Again. When I keep
telling you to take it easy for a little, to let yourself heal,”
Wallace dropped his head down and stared at Karax meaningfully,
“I'm not doing it just because I like to repeat myself. Lieutenant
Karax, you need to give your implants a chance to adjust.”

“No time,” Karax said without pause. “I have
to complete this latest training regime. We're getting slaughtered
out there.”

Wallace shifted his gaze surreptitiously
over his shoulder to check if anyone was in ear shot. “You mean the
Ornax?”

It was a top-level secret. Not that it could
stay that way for long. The Ornax were operating within Coalition
space. A new impossible enemy that had seemingly come from nowhere
and had pushed beyond Coalition borders with no reprieve. Though
their numbers were small for now, and their incursions sporadic, it
wouldn't last.

This was the precursor to a proper invasion.
The Ornax were just testing the waters to see how much resistance
the Coalition could provide before they committed their forces to a
full-on invasion.

“... We all appreciate what you're doing for
us, lieutenant.” Wallace bowed his head low.

The uncharacteristic move brought a
half-smile to Karax's lips.

There were some at the Academy who thought
Karax never smiled. They were wrong. Underneath the life of
hardship and survival, he liked to have a good time. He enjoyed a
laugh.

And that's what made all this harder to
accept.

Deep down Karax knew he was never meant for
this life.

It had chosen him, not the other way
around.

“I'll work as quickly as I can – I heard you
have a meeting with Admiral Forest later today,” Wallace said
conspiratorially.

Karax couldn't help but laugh. “You part of
her spy ring? You always know what's going on around here.”

“I'd love to profess that Forest has
entrusted me with espionage duties, but the reality is, I just hear
a lot. People are remarkably chatty when you've got their life in
your hands.”

“Well, you're right. I do have a meeting
with Forest.” Karax let his fingers drag down his brow.

“We'll find a way to beat the Ornax. It's
early days, lieutenant. The Coalition always finds a way.”

Karax looked at Wallace as he worked. It was
easy to see that the doctor genuinely believed what he was
saying.

To him, the Coalition were unbeatable.
They'd never fallen in the past, right? So didn't that mean they'd
last forever?

No. It did not.

If the Coalition wanted to survive these new
tumultuous times, they'd have to learn to survive. Not flourish.
Survive.

By any means possible.

One look around at the gentrified Academy,
and it was clear there would be a steep learning curve.

There was an ever growing gap between what
the Coalition wanted to do and what they had to do to ensure their
continued existence.

That gap was typified no better than in
Cadet Sinclair.

She should have been turfed from day
one.

She was still here. Why? Because someone out
there had the erroneous belief she could pull through her
troubles.

She didn't want to.

And that was the bottom line.

“You've gone all sullen and somber,
lieutenant. I'll repeat once more, the Coalition will beat the
Ornax. We defeated the lost star – given time, we'll overcome this
obstacle, too. Anyhow, lie on your stomach, close your eyes, and
think pleasant thoughts while I deliberately break a few of your
mechanical vertebrae and access their internal mechanisms.”

“Sounds painful.” Karax lay on the medical
bed and nestled his head against his hands.

“Sure is. But someone like you knows how to
push past pain. Oh, and I'll also half sedate you, which will help.
You'll find your mind wandering during this procedure. Don't worry
– it's a side effect of the anesthetic I have to use. Sit back and
enjoy the show. It'll take an hour.”

Wallace got to work.

As soon as he injected something into
Karax's neck, Karax felt a slow wave of unconsciousness shift
through his mind.

It didn't pull him down into sleep. Not
fully.

A part of him was still aware of his body
pressed against the cold medical bed. The rest wandered.

Which was a bad idea. Because whenever
Karax's mind wandered, it always returned to the same place.

His home world.

The invasions.

One after another, week after week –
Barbarian raiding parties attacking his settlement relentlessly
over a harrowing three-year period until finally they claimed the
planet and pushed the settlers back.

Karax lost his whole family during the
raids. One after another.

He... he'd survived.

He could see it now – the settlement around
him, the stark brown and grey reclaimed cruisers that had been
modified into habitable shelters.

They'd sat there, nestled against the
verdant green grass as the trees and vines of the planet had massed
around them.

The settlement had been situated at the foot
of a hill. Behind had been a steep mountain Karax had played on
with his brothers. If you climbed it, you'd see the greatest view
in the galaxy – a massive mountainous valley dotted with crystal
peaks, three silver-white moons constantly visible above the
horizon.

He could still remember with perfect clarity
standing on the edge of that cliff, wind blowing against his brown
tunic, a smile pressing over his lips.

Then the Barbarians had come....

...

Lieutenant Karax, ten years ago, colony planets,
border of Coalition space

“Come on, Karax, get your ass back to camp.
We can't stay up here forever,” Karax's brother called.

Karax didn't move. He couldn't. That view
sucked him in. It wrapped its hands around his gaze and drew it
forward as he stared at each crystal peak in turn.

His attention inevitably drifted towards the
three moons in the sky. They stood sentinel over the planet, like
three guards watching her from space.

“Come on,” his brother said, terse voice
filtering up from further down the hill.

Reluctantly Karax pushed back, ripped his
mesmerized gaze from the moons, and trudged away.

As soon as his reclaimed leather boots sunk
through the soft inch-high grass, his gut trembled.

Far in the distance, he swore he could hear
something.

Something out of place.

“Kiros? Kiros? You there?” he shouted.

He didn't know why, but a flare of fear
snagged his heart.

He shifted forward, boots crumpling the lush
grass. His head swung from side-to-side as he scanned for his older
brother. “Kiros?”

No reply.

Then he heard it, that odd rumble shaking
through the hills.

Cruiser engines.

He stared at the topaz-blue sky just as
three cruisers shot past the mountain peak, heading down to the
settlement below.

At first he thought they were suppliers.

They weren't.

The ships were ramshackle, cobbled-together,
brown and black hull plating interspersed with pulser turrets and
rotating cannon shafts.

“Kiros!” He pitched forward, heart pounding
in his chest as he shunted into a sprint.

He flew down the grassy incline.

“Kiros!”

No reply.

It was a good 30 minute trek to the
settlement below.

Karax lost all track of time as he flew down
the peak, sprinting so fast over the grass, the tread of his
hand-me-down boots dug it up, clumps of dirt scattering around
him.

He kept calling Kiros' name, kept bellowing
at his brother to reply.

Karax never made it to the settlement.

Half way there, he came across a Barbarian
warrior pushing through the undergrowth.

The guy was huge – easily three times
Karax's size.

He was also wearing armor. It covered his
broad chest, his legs, even his arms and fists. Only his head was
unadorned. It meant Karax could see the warrior's yellowed,
pin-prick eyes as they focused on him.

The Barbarian pulled back its red lips to
reveal its slobbery tusks.

It didn't say a word. It reached for the
massive carved knife held in the holster by its side.

Karax's mind stopped, frozen still with
fear.

The Barbarian laughed, twisted the knife
around in its grip, and threw it at Karax.

At that exact moment Kiros shot through the
undergrowth, wrapped an arm around Karax, and pushed him out of the
way.

The blade sank into Kiros' back. It was so
long and thrown with such force, that the tip of the blade sliced
right through Kiros' chest and snagged Karax's tunic.

Karax screamed. One long, desperate,
terrified bellow that tore from his throat as his brother died in
his arms.

The Barbarian didn't waste any time. It
pushed towards Karax, a smile curling around its fat, veiny
lips.

Karax waited to be killed, his mind crawling
to a stop as his brother's body twitched.

The Barbarian reached him, and loomed above
him like a sudden plume of smoke that had blocked out the sun.

Without a word, it leant down and plucked
the blade from Kiros' back.

The sound of it ripping through Kiros'
muscle and bones was the most sickening thing Karax had ever
heard.

The Barbarian considered Karax for one more
second, then lurched towards his throat—

...

Lieutenant Karax

Karax awoke with a snap, sweaty fingers
scrabbling over the edge of his medical bed.

“Whoa,” someone locked a firm hand on his
back, “Relax there, lieutenant. It seems you had a bad reaction to
that anesthetic. It's okay now. It's all okay.”

Karax concentrated on Wallace's voice,
letting it pull him back to reality.

With one final chest-punching sigh, he
settled his mind.

And his heart.

“... You okay there, lieutenant?”

“Yeah.” Karax pushed up. He glanced down to
see most of his front was covered in sweat.

Wallace's gaze flashed with concern. “Sorry
about that – seems you're one of the 1 in 1,000,000 who can't
tolerate that kind of anesthetic. I've given you something to flush
it from your system. You'll be alright soon.”

Karax responded by jumping up and
standing.

Wallace put out a hand.

Karax didn't need it.

With another grounding breath, Karax tugged
down his tunic, neatening it as best as he could, and nodded. “I
feel fine now, doctor.” He experimentally shifted his shoulders out
and arched his back. “Have you fixed my spine?”

“Kind of. It'll need more work. I want you
back in here tomorrow, you got that?”

Karax didn't say anything as he tried to
surreptitiously wipe the sweat from his brow.

“You want to do your job, lieutenant, then
you have to look after yourself. It's not a luxury – it's a
requirement. It's also an order,” Wallace said curtly, gaze
flashing.

“Fine. But I probably won't be able to make
it tomorrow. That's when the summit's booked.”

Wallace's once direct stare flared with
curiosity. “Summit?”

Karax laughed at himself as he shook his
head. “Ha, I guess you're right, doc – your patients do tell you
too much. I shouldn't have mentioned that. I trust you'll be
discrete about it.”

“It depends what it's about. This isn't to
do with the Ornax, is it?”

Karax chose not to answer. He did, however,
hold the doctor's gaze.

Eventually Wallace nodded, shifted to the
side, and gestured towards the door. “You'll be fine for the next
few days, lieutenant. But you will come and see me after that.”

Karax snapped a mock salute. He walked out
of the room with a hurried, “Thanks, doc.”

The truth was, he wouldn't have the time to
come back in a few days.

Time was a resource rapidly slipping through
Karax's fingers.

Even as he thought that, his heart
quickened.

His pace quickened, too.

He pushed into a half-jog as he made it
through the med bay and out into the main grounds.

He couldn't be late for his meeting with the
admiral. Too much was riding on this.

As he flew across the main grassy area that
separated the primary buildings of the Academy, he found his gaze
flicking to the side and locking on someone.

BOOK: Fractured Mind Episode One (A Galactic Coalition Academy Series)
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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