Authors: C.F. Harris
Copyright 2016 C.F. Harris
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Individuals pictured on the cover are models and used for illustrative purposes only.
First digital edition electronically published by C.F. Harris, June 2016
Subscribe to my mailing list for all the latest updates and book news!
Darkness. A deep voice speaking to me. Filling my mind. Whispering to me and consuming my world. Explosions. The sound of battle all around me. The terrifying sound of metal being torn by forces that could destroy a person in an instant. Pain flaring through my body.
Death. I should be dead right now. Why did I think I should be dead?
I opened my eyes and found myself in a dimly lit room on a massive comfortable mattress that didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen on a human world outside of some of the cheesy orbital motels that promised hourly visitors a “truly out of this world experience.”
I’d had a couple of guys try to get me to one of those orbital hotels. The first time was an upperclassman in my academy days who soon learned what it meant to try and use his rank to get me in the sack. The last had been an admiral trying to take advantage of my disgrace losing my ship. He’d also learned the same lesson, though I suppose he’d had the last laugh since I’d been put on assignment on the outer rim which brought me…
Wherever in the known galaxy here was. Something told me I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Hell, I doubted I was in the heliosphere anymore.
Memories came rushing back. The ship falling apart around me. The surprise attack. Waking up in a Livisk medical bay and finding myself face to face with the same Livisk general I’d bested on that terrible day.
Jorav. He said his name was Jorav. I rolled that name around in my mind. It was a nice name. A strong name. A name befitting a man as powerful and sexy as the strange alien general.
Wait, sexy? Did I really just think that? I did not think a Livisk was sexy even if a fluke accident of convergent evolution made that thought a very real possibility. I knew what the Livisk did. Looking around at this lavishly appointed room, it was bigger than any command quarters I’d ever enjoyed, I had no doubt who held me captive and what his intentions were.
The dirty sneaky Livisk bastard. I had to think that way, otherwise different thoughts would intrude. Thoughts of what I would like to do with my captor in this room.
Still, I couldn’t help but think that this was a nice room. Sure it was on an alien world, or maybe on some orbital space station going around some forsaken planet in the middle of enemy territory, but I could get used to living like this. I felt guilty for the thought even as it occurred to me.
I was a member of the human interstellar fleet and this was the enemy. I should not be thinking about all the things I’d like to do with my alien captor, or how comfortable these sheets felt. I should be thinking about a way to escape. A way to find my crew, even if they were the reason I found myself trapped here in the first place.
“Where in the known galaxies are you, Talia,” I muttered to myself as I stood from the bed and made the rounds of the room. The walls were jet black. I wasn’t sure if that was because they were actual walls or if they would fade into viewscreens if I knew the right voodoo to get the alien technology to work.
That there was alien technology embedded in this room somewhere seemed likely. Rooms this swank didn’t get built without toys built into them.
I glanced down at my body as I moved through the room. I felt surprisingly… good. None of the pain that had threatened to overwhelm me the last time I came out of stasis. None of the screaming from broken bones as I forced myself across the room and pulled the sword out of that idiot’s scabbard and…
Oh damn. I’d stabbed him. Right in front of a bunch of Livisk who didn’t seem too happy about watching their precious commander getting stuck like a pig. I smiled thinking of that particularly pleasant memory, even if it did seem like the sort of pleasant memory that would come back to bite me in the ass soon enough.
If I could figure out how to get the hell out of here. I did a complete circuit of the circular room and came up blank. No door in evidence. No advanced technology to be seen anywhere. Just the bed and those sheets with the ridiculous thread count that made me want to dive into them and go back to sleep.
At least if I was asleep I wouldn’t have to worry about reality for a little while.
“Okay Talia, you’ve been in worse scrapes than this. We can figure a way out of this one.”
The only problem? I’d never really been in a situation like this before. I was just putting on a show for any listening device that might be hanging out hidden in the walls trying to gather some intel on yours truly. I didn’t want to let on to the sparkly blue bastards that I was up a black hole without a working FTL drive to get my ass out of this.
1: Battlefield Mercy
I looked around the edge of the corridor and was greeted by the sizzling blasts of Livisk energy weapons for my trouble. Thankfully they weren’t using actual laser weapons. Just charged plasma that would ruin my day if it hit me, but it didn’t travel at the speed of light which there was no way to dodge.
I looked at the two security officers standing with me. Made a few quick motions that they were to go around behind the Livisk position and hit them from behind. The Blue Sparklies would probably think that was dishonorable or some other such bullshit notion about how you were supposed to act in battle, but I wasn’t in a position to give a flying fuck what they thought about honor.
“Go,” I said. The security guys nodded, their deep crimson armor whispering as they disappeared down a side corridor.
That was one nice thing about fighting on home territory. I knew my ship better than any Livisk invader could ever hope to. It gave us a distinct home field advantage fighting off the bastards.
The down side, of course, was that if we were fighting on our home territory that meant the Livisk had already boarded us to cause trouble. I tried to be a glass half full kind of girl, though.
I did a quick double check of all my readouts. So far power levels were optimal and I hadn’t taken any hits that threatened to remove my power armor. The Livisk might be able to take a couple of blasts without any sort of armor thanks to that damned armored skin of theirs, but humanity didn’t have any such luxury. We had to do what we’d always done. Flip the middle finger to mother nature who hadn’t given us anything but a brain to work with and use that brain to come up with something better than anything mother nature could ever dream up.
I peeked around the edge of the corridor and squeezed off a couple of shots. They waited until I was safely back around my corner before returning fire. We’d broken out the big guns as soon as it was clear we’d be boarded. None of the pea shooters we used for human security matters onboard. This was the sort of stuff that could stop a Livisk with a couple of shots if I was lucky and had good aim.
“Are you sure you don’t want to surrender?” I shouted down the corridor.
“Death before surrender!” a Livisk with a surprisingly deep voice shouted. I shivered at that voice. That was a voice made for radio, as they said back on Earth. Though radio hadn’t been a going concern for hundreds of years, the saying stuck.
Though I knew that saying likely didn’t apply to the Livisk I was taunting. No, he’d be like all their soldiers. Tall. Dashing. Handsome and muscled to the point that a lady could go weak in the knees looking at them. Of course the fact that they were carrying energy weapons and doing their best to commandeer my baby right out from under me did away from some of that knee shaking, but still.
It was unfair that the enemy should look like a species of sparkling blue underwear models. I’m sure there were plenty who didn’t look that good back on their home world. They had to have accountants or something other than warriors who sought their honor by finding loopholes in whatever tax system their emperor had, but I fought them and that meant I ran into the perfect specimens that fought on their side.
They’d been quiet for too long. That wasn’t good. I moved my weapon around the corner again, using the heads up display in my power armor to get a good look. Sure enough an entirely too-handsome Livisk with elaborate tattoos was making his way down the corridor.
My breath caught as I looked at him. He really was too perfect. I would’ve gone weak in the knees if I didn’t have the power armor to help hold me up. Those intricate tattoos also meant that he was pretty high ranking. I might be looking at the commander of their ship. Maybe even a general or higher. The more elaborate their tattoos the higher they were in the Livisk hierarchy.
That didn’t stop me from squeezing off several shots. My aim was true, helped by the targeting laser that landed at the center of this powerful Livisk’s chest. He looked down, wide-eyed, at the dot that appeared on his chest. It would’ve been comical if this wasn’t so deadly serious. He tried to dodge, but this was a narrow corridor and there wasn’t anywhere he could’ve dodged.
This was one of those situations where he threw in all his chips on stealth, and now that stealth hadn’t worked for him he was going to hurt. A lot.
I squeezed off several shots. The first didn’t seem to do anything. He stood and bellowed in rage, the war cry that was supposed to chill soldiers to the bone, but in this case I welcomed it because it meant the blue-skinned idiot stood tall with his arms raised. I landed two more shots and he finally went down, his chest smoking where there was black scorching from the blasts landing.
I waited for a moment. There were more battle roars followed by the sound of power armor moving into hand to hand combat. A moment later one of the security guys appeared at the opposite end of the corridor.
“Clear down here captain,” he said.
“Good. Stay on point down there. I don’t want us to give up an inch once we’ve retaken it!”
“Got it, cap,” he said, turning and doing as he was told.
This was a long impossible slog on what was supposed to be a routine mission to target one of their space stations we believed was being used to set up a surreptitious colony in space that belonged to humanity, thank you very much. Once we let the Livisk get a toehold on a planet it was as impossible to get rid of them as cockroaches had supposedly been before some ingenious exterminator had come up with the idea of mobile hunter-killer microbots armed with lasers that hunted the species to extinction outside of zoos.
I stepped forward and cross referenced the tattoos on this big one with the database we had of known Livisk ranks. When I did I let out a low whistle. I’d gotten myself one hell of a whopper this time around. Not only a general, but the elaborate body paint meant he was also a member of the Livisk imperial family.
“Who are you?” I asked as I pulled off my power armor helmet, crooked it under one arm, and regarded this strange new Livisk. One thing was for certain. If I could bring in someone this high ranking then there was a good chance I could get out of whatever trouble was inevitably going to come down from on high for losing a ship to boarding parties.
I should’ve been more on my guard. If I’d been paying attention or thinking at all then I would’ve kept my helmet on. As it was, I was completely unprepared as the Livisk’s eyes opened and his hand reached out to grab me by the ankle. In a flash I was down on the ground. I didn’t even have time to let out a cry and let the security people around the corner know that I was in trouble.