Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1) (8 page)

BOOK: Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1)
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Chapter Nine

Boss, Gar, Hali, and CJ wove their way through the streets and alleyways of Sindar as they headed back to the spaceport. They made it out of the MT&T office before the security team arrived and had seen no sign of pursuit since they left.
Is it because they’re already at the spaceport waiting for us
, Boss wondered silently.
We’re making good time so far. I should call JP and warn him.
Just as he was thinking it a call came over the comms.

Lunar Ma
to Captain Keltzer,” JP called over the comms. “Alert one, repeat, alerne!
Lunar Mare
to Captain Keltzer, come in, please.” The call was scratchy due to the static from the wind and sand.

“Keltzer here, go ahead
Lunar Mare

“Alert one messa from Trigger, Captain,” replied JP. “MT&T Predator now in orbit ov Canalar.
Altered Moon
is standing by, ready to assist.”

“Copy and understood,” Boss said. “Be ready for immediate liftoff upon our arrival. ETA thirty minutes out!”

“Copy that! Immediate liftoff on yourrival. Aye, sir!” JP confirmed.

Boss signaled to the others to gather up in a narrow alley that was somewhat out of the wind.

“MT&T Predator just entered orbit,” Boss told them through the headset.

Gar turned his head sharply to look at Boss; fear grew in his eyes at the realization. “They’re after us. Shit!” he stamped his foot for emphasis.

“Wait a minute. Maybe they’re here to check out the call,” said CJ.

“They wouldn’t send a Predator to deal with some back-world con man, you ass!” scolded Gar angrily. “They want you
! They want us all gone! If that company guy back there isn’t dead yet, he will be soon. Then they’re gonna be on us! If they aren’t already.”

“What we do, Captain?” asked Hali.

“We hustle our asses to the shuttle, get back to the
, and get the hell out of here,” said Boss. “Hali, take us by the shortest route. We hold at the closest cover and check the area. If it’s clear, we go through the port. If not, then we go to plan B.”

“Plan B?” Hali asked.

“Yeah, we do what we need to, to get out of this alive. All right, let’s go!”

They jogged through the streets of Sindar with Hali in the lead, checking their progress whenever they came to open areas they needed to cross. The group would stop to take quick cover and scan for opposition. Street after street, block after block they ran, took cover, scanned, and ran again. Run, get down, check, get up, run, get down, check, get up, run…it seemed to go on forever.

Moving in between the buildings made it hard to judge any progress, but they eventually made it to the last line of buildings before the spaceport. They took cover behind a building that was built along a small gulley south of the main entrance. The scene was quiet, no one was in sight, and the way to the outer door was clear.

“Gar, you take point,” said Boss. “Hali, cover the rear. Keep close to the wall. When we get to the door, I’ll take front cover. Gar, Hali, you two take the sides. CJ, you handle the door. We back in and cover the outer door until it’s closed. We move to the landing bay quick and quiet. Copy? Good. Let’s move!”

Gar shot out from their cover and moved quickly to the wall of the spaceport. CJ moved out to join Gar up ahead. Boss went next, then was followed by Hali when the others took up cover positions. Boss’ breathing became labored, as he worked hard to suck enough oxygen through the filter mask.
Damn, I need to exercise more
, he told himself and tried to get his big frame to move faster. He was almost to the wall when his foot unexpectedly wasn’t where it was supposed to be. He went down hard and face-planted into a small wall of plascrete. The impact shattered his goggles, scraped the skin from his nose, and peeled the eyebrow up halfway over his left eye.

“Dammit…shit!” Boss exclaimed, as he pushed himself up and ran to the wall. Dust and sand instantly mixed with the flowing blood, which turned into a matted mess, making it painful to even open his eyes. He felt a hand on his shoulder telling him that Hali was in position behind him. He reached up to tap CJ’s shoulder and missed him by a foot. CJ saw that Boss was hurt, so he took his arm and then tapped Gar to move ahead. The group reached the edge of the entryway and took up cover positions. The wind picked up speed, turning the sand into tiny silicon missiles. Boss pulled the edge of his jacket up to shield the open wounds on his face.

“CJ, go!” Boss bellowed to be heard over the wind.

CJ moved to the door and reached up to tap the control panel. A small explosion and the green blast of a plasma bolt just inches from his hand made him jump backward and duck down.

“Whoa!” he screamed and scurried back to better cover.

“Cover fire!” Boss yelled back. “CJ, here.” He handed his K-13 to CJ. “I can’t see a damned thing. Give ‘em hell, kid!”

“Strike squad!” Gar yelled, as the blue sizzle of his K-13 streaked off toward the attackers.

CJ moved over slightly, apparently for a better view. He flipped off the safety and fired at the shadowy figures that advanced on them through the blowing sands. Bolts of crackling blue energy from the crew’s Rellia K-13s streaked across the small courtyard past the green beams of the security squad’s YAG laser pistols as the two groups fired on each other. They managed to hold off the strike squad for a short time when the outer door beeped three times and began to open. Gar could see the black-and-red uniforms of MT&T security on the other side.

“Trap!” he cried while he turned to fire through the door, which backed off the security team for a moment.

“Fall back,” bellowed Boss. “Fall back to our last position!”

CJ grabbed Boss’ arm and together they ran-stumbled back along the wall, while Gar and Hali covered their retreat. They made it back to the small gulley just as the winds kicked up into a full-blown dust storm. The group hunkered down to stay under cover and out of the winds.

“Hali, how many are there?” asked Boss.

Hali pulled out her scanner and studied it for a second. “I can’t get a reading, Captain, too much static interference.”

“Shit! Let’s hope it’s doing the same thing to them,” he said. “JP!” he called in to the comms. “JP! Come in
Lunar Mare

here, Captain,” came the broken reply.

“We are under fire!” Boss told him. “Hostiles have cut us off from the main entrance. We need to find another way in. Give a ping on the locator—our scanners can’t read anything in this storm.”

“Rogat,” JP replied through the static.

“Hali, scan for his position” Boss called out.

Hali checked her scanner screen. “Got him, Captain, he’s close, two hundred meters…eighty-eight degrees to the west.”

“We read you,
Lunar Mare
,” Boss called into the comms. “We are heading directly to you. Power up flight systems, extend the ramp, and open landing bay doors. We’ll have to load on the fly.”

“Understood, Captai,” JP said. “
Lunar Mare
is standing…” there was a slight pause then “Shit! Captain, I have hostiles in the landing bay, repeat, hostiles in the lan.” The comms cut off abruptly.

“Shit!” Boss exclaimed as his entire upper torso shook in frustration. “JP’s got company! Hali, straight line for his position. Let’s move!”

The four of them moved together in cluster formation in an attempt to stay in visual contact with each other in the dust storm. They moved in a hurry, while CJ kept a tight grip on the upper sleeve of Boss’ jacket. Alarm sirens blared out a warning and emergency lights flashed as the domed doors of the landing bay began to recede. The smoke cloud and residual sparks of the flash bang grenades surrounded the landing bay hatchway. JP managed to spin
Lunar Mare
one eighty degrees in place as green streaks of plasma bolts shot out of the smoky cloud. A blast of blue fire flared out from
Lunar Mare
’s ISE, cooking anything within meters of the hatchway.

Boss and the others ran onto the landing pad as
Lunar Mare
hovered at ground level with the entry ramp extended. Gar and Hali covered the blasted hatchway as CJ helped Boss up the ramp. Hali jumped on the ramp, followed by Gar, and the two of them ran into the ship. Gar pounded the ramp control panel and sealed the shuttle door. Blue fire and a thunderous roar erupted from
Lunar Mare’
s engines as JP went to full burn from a dead stop. The shuttle climbed up in a steep arc to leave Canalar’s atmosphere as soon as possible.


Chapter Ten

JP kept
Lunar Mare’
s ISE at point zero one percent, which allowed the engine to idle while the ship was stationary. He monitored flight system readouts and ran sensor scans. The scans did little good; the static electric charge from all the sand and dust in the high winds made it impossible to get a decent reading. At least it gave him something to do instead of twiddling his thumbs and counting the seconds.
Jump pilot, yeah right, glorified taxi driver is all I am. All I do is punch buttons on a computer panel. Star pilot drives the ship, now that’s where it’s at!
I could be a damn good star pilot, too, but no, the captain’s squeeze gets the position
. An incoming comms alert startled him out of his mental whining.

“JP!” a call came over the comms. “JP! Comn
Lunar Mare

Lunar Mare
here, Captain,” JP answered.

“We are undire!” came the urgent comms from Boss. “Hostiles have cut us off from the main entrance. We need to find another way in. Give a ping on the locator—our scanners cad anything in this storm.”

“Roger that,” JP replied and keyed a command into a flight panel.

“We read yo
ar Mare
,” Boss said. “We are heading directly to you. Power up flight systems, extend the ramp, and opding bay doors. We’ll have to load on the fly.”

“Understood, Captain,” JP said. “
Lunar Mare
is standing…”

An MT&T security strike squad opened the landing bay hatch and opened fire on
Lunar Mare

“Shit! Captain, I have hostiles in the landing bay, repeat, hostiles in the landing bay,” JP called into the comms.

Before the squad could advance very far, he triggered the grenades by the hatchway. The blast stunned the security team and triggered the emergency venting system that opened the outer bay doors in case of fire. JP quickly engaged the security fields and retracted the landing gear and the entry ramp. He spun
Lunar Mare
about-face and purged hydrogen through the ISE ports, which sent a blast of rocket fire through the landing bay hatch.

“That’ll slow you bastards down,” he said to himself.

A sensor beep drew his attention to the bio signs that approached the landing pad. JP dropped the security fields, extended the ramp, and positioned
Lunar Mare
closer to the group. Boss and the others scrambled to the entry ramp. JP watched on the visual feed as two people went up the ramp together; the other two covered the smoldering hatchway then ascended the ramp as well.

JP read that the entry ramp was up and the hatch sealed, so he gunned the engines and put
Lunar Mare
into a steep climb.

The Canalar spaceport shrank to a spec as the shuttle sped away through the atmosphere. There was no sign of pursuit from the surface, but JP knew the real danger of the Predator was still ahead of them.

Altered Moon
Altered Moon
, this is
Lunar Mare
,” JP called into the comms. “Alert one, alert one! We are comin’ up and we are comin’ up HOT!”

No response.

Altered Moon
, do you read?” he called again.

“We read you,
Lunar Mare
,” Trigger’s reply was mixed with chaotic background noise. “Be advised, we are under attack. Take evasive action after clearing the atmosphere. Rendezvous at coords fifty-two, three-twenty, one seventy-five! We may have to pull off a little barn burner to get you home. Be ready to execute a ‘Boss nine’ at first chance.”

“Copy that, Trigger,” JP prepared to make the switch from atmospheric flight to space flight. “Breaking atmosphere in ninety seconds.”

“Understood” Trigger’s reply was short.

JP thumbed the master comms button. “Strap yourselves in back there. We have trouble poppin’ up everywhere and things may get rough!”

JP maneuvered
Lunar Mare
up through Canalar’s atmosphere and emerged into space half a planet away from the rendezvous. He could see the weapons fire taking place between the two ships off in the distance. JP knew that Trigger expected him to have
Lunar Mare
in position before the
Altered Moon
got there. The cockpit hatch opened and Boss came in and took the copilot’s seat.

“Whoa,” he exclaimed at the sight of Boss’ bandage-wrapped face. “What happened to you? Are you all right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Boss answered. “Just thought I would test the hardness of the local plascrete…with my face. Sit-rep?”

is under fire and taking evasive action to give us time to make the rendezvous. The plan is to pull a ‘Boss nine,’ then blast out of the system. We are eighteen minutes from coordinates,” JP informed him.

“Good…good,” Boss said as he hit the ship-to-ship comms. “Trigger, this is Boss. How do you read?” There was no response. “
Altered Moon
, come in.”

“Trigger here, Captain. A little busy at the moment,” his reply came over the comms.

“Understood. Green light on ‘Boss nine.’ Repeat; green light on ‘Boss nine.’ Execute evasive pattern five. Initiate full moon burn as soon as we’re in, then go to ground, repeat, go to ground!”

“Aye, Captain!” Trigger called out. Boss’s crew knew that ‘go to ground’ meant getting as far away from major star systems as possible and finding a place to hide out.

“All right, JP, let’s get to the rendezvous,” said Boss

“Roger that.”

Boss turned the visual sensors toward the area where the two ships engaged each other. Nothing of either ship could be seen as both of them had low-signature stealth-style hull plating. The blue-and-green flashes of particle beams and plasma bolts could be seen as the two ships fought for a death grip on the other.

The space battle continued as JP brought
Lunar Mare
to the rendezvous coordinates and raged on until an ultra-bright light flared like a supernova and then went dark again. Trigger had just set off the Moonshine STO to turn the tide of the battle.

The glowing tails of two missiles stood out in the black of space like candles in a darkened window. The flash of impact was followed by what looked like blue lightning that floated in space, the telltale sign of a ‘Goose’ missile. Trigger had used the electromagnetic pulse of the missile strike to disable the Predator

“Good job, Trigger,” Boss nodded and relaxed back in his chair. “JP, set an intercept course for the
Altered Moon

“Roger that!” JP said. “ETA: two minutes.”

Lunar Mare
, this is
Altered Moon
,” Trigger called over the comms. “How do read?”

Altered Moon
, this is
Lunar Mare
,” Boss replied. “What is your situation?”

“The Predator is temporarily disabled. I suggest we expedite our departure.”

“Roger that,
Altered Moon
, I wholeheartedly agree,” Boss replied. “We are on approach…shuttle bay doors are open…
Lunar Mare
is in…down…and locked…bay doors are closed…we’re home.”


BOOK: Rise of the Altered Moon: Altered Moon Series: Book One (The Altered Moon Series 1)
6.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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