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Authors: Dalton Cortner

The Athena Operation

BOOK: The Athena Operation
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The Athena Operation

by Dalton Cortner

 

 

 

 

 

© 2016 Dalton Cortner

 

All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by United States of America copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, at “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the address below.

 

Dalton Cortner

www.daltoncortner.com

www.facebook.com/daltoncortner

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

Editing work done by Emma Welsh & John Anderson. Cover art done by Petar B.

 

Thank you to Alyssa, for believing in me. For anyone who’s urged me to follow my dreams and finish this.

 

CHAPTER 1: RENASCENCE

 

 

 

 

“It's time.”

The words stung Zane Silver’s ears. He let slip a low sigh, and tried to keep his attention on the window panel in front of him, on the planet in the distance. His hands shook as he folded his arms. This moment would define his very existence. No greater act could ever match what he and his partner, Aven Sabu, were about to achieve.

Zane glanced at his othal partner.

The othal were considered a trustworthy race, but Zane regarded Aven with so much more than trust. He considered Aven Sabu a brother. After all they'd been through together, it seemed almost demeaning to label him as anything less. A bond had been forged between them, a bond that was about to reach its apex.

“It will be glorious,” Zane said, his tone flush with confidence. “Never has this universe seen such a feat.”

Aven smiled and walked over to Zane. “It . . . will be illustrious.” There was a glint of hunger in his eyes, fueled by the prospect of power.

It was no secret that Aven was the greedier of the two, but surprising to both of them, it had aided their partnership. With his standing in the othal hierarchy, Aven had access to nearly limitless funds, and he had influence. He had no trouble directing attention elsewhere, so that he and Zane went undetected.

“Do the others know?” Aven asked.

“Everyone. They were informed today at 13:02,” Zane smiled.

“Is Lahen prepared?”

“Lahen was alerted at dawn. He knows, and has assured me his nerves are calm.”

“Good, good. The operation can commence. Do it, my brother.”

Zane walked to the middle of the room. He stood over a low table, staring down at a large, red button. He was struck by the gravity of it. This one button would act as the catalyst for their grand agenda. Zane took a deep breath. He gave his partner a final glance, and Aven nodded his approval.

Zane pushed the button

 

CHAPTER 2: A SOLDIER AT WORK

 

 

 

 

Commander Seraph Aydrian ran a hand through his black hair to keep it from falling into his eyes. He sat in the passenger seat of the small shuttle that carried him and his partner to the ground level of the planet. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead, and to a stranger, he might have appeared nervous. But Seraph wasn't nervous. He was preoccupied.

Sadhis Loxai sat across from Seraph.

Sadhis’s complexion ranged from orange to yellow, across his body. He was covered in an irregular pattern of black dots that varied in size from a few centimeters to an inch in length. A spotted complexion was a rarity among fesar, and it troubled Seraph. He sought order in things, and seeing Sadhis as an anomaly made him uneasy.

Sadhis wasn’t a bad man. In fact, Seraph was closer to him than nearly anyone. But being stuck in close proximity with anyone for hours picked at the edges of Seraph’s nerves.

The only reason Seraph had been assigned to a throw-away mission such as this was the severe warning and threat of discharge he was faced with. Too 'reckless', too 'violent' were the charges. Excessive brutality lined his military career. He didn't stick a gun in just anyone's face and pull the trigger, but he refused to let anyone compromise the integrity of his assignments. He’d been warned numerous times he wasn’t doing humanity any favors with his actions, but on a mission, he was concerned with only one thing: the objective.

Sadhis couldn't have been more opposite. The fesar was the poster child for military operation, neutralizing suspects as opposed to killing them. He got the missions done neat, and to this day, he'd never been reprimanded. Seraph only knew this because the two had worked on so many missions together that he heard it straight from the Confederate Chamber in the debriefs.

In spite of all this, Seraph and Sadhis worked incredibly well together. Seraph’s brutal romp-and-stomp gunning methods balanced Sadhis’ stealth-based approach. It was little surprise that the two of them had been assigned on a mission together.

A loud bang and a jerk in the ship pulled Seraph away from his thoughts. The pilot announced that they were due for landing within the minute. Both men stood up and began putting their gear on. Sadhis opted for a flexible piece of dark gray chest armor, which he slid on over his standard Confederate Military uniform. Seraph chose a heavy black armor that covered his broad chest and extended down to his forearms. It had more weight than Sadhis’s, but it also had more protection. Seraph pulled it on over his uniform and cinched the clasps tight.

“Can’t believe they’re throwing us all the way out here. Bombs? Killings? It’s fucking Torca, that shit sounds like everyday news,” Seraph hissed.

“Perhaps. The bomb threat needs to be removed, yes. But a band of murderous seythra? I've never heard of such a thing before. That's just not their way, they're people of honor,” Sadhis replied.

Seraph chuckled. “They've got their honorable, sure. So does any race. But they've also got their sick, depraved psychos.”

“You ask anyone.” Sadhis eased back in his seat. “They're easily the most trusted and most dependable. We've never had a report like this. Mass murder? I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't hit my desk.”

Seraph shrugged off Sadhis's doubt. “Got a mission. Just work it. We aren't paid to analyze the details. You ask me, it's a waste, though. Nobody on Torca without blood on their hands.”

Sadhis eyed Seraph. “It may be out of Confederate space, but we still have an obligation to protect these people.”

“You and I both know what happens on Torca. Fuck if I’m obligated to protect criminals and murderers.” Seraph’s head bobbed as the ship made its descent.

Sadhis holstered his three-shot machine pistol, while Seraph checked the scope on his standard issue assault rifle. The ship landed with another loud thud. Sadhis loaded a fresh magazine into his pistol as the shuttle doors opened.

Seraph and Sadhis stepped out onto Torca. Seraph scanned the perimeter and grunted. The planet was more than ninety-five percent water and had hundreds of small islands scattered across its surface. There was nothing but water to their right. To their left, the sounds of wild animals spilled forth from a dense jungle. An earthy smell permeated the air.

Sadhis sighed. “A bit underwhelming.”

Seraph groaned. He stepped forward and sniffed the air. There it was . . . one of the reasons they had been called here.

“Smoke,” Seraph said. Sadhis could smell it, too; the acrid scent tainted the wind.

Torca certainly had a sense of beauty with the dense tropics and lush jungles it deceived visitors with, but its very nature attracted criminal elements. The seclusion of each island made Torca a prime location for everything illegal. Drug production thrived on uninhabited plots of land. Bodies were dumped and forgotten. Torca had no local law enforcement, and the Confederate Military was unwilling to waste any of its resources on the hopeless planet. Someone had to make a lot of noise on Torca to get anyone to pay attention. Even then, only an officer or two would be dispatched to investigate.

Seraph and Sadhis had been sent to Torca after a research crew reported hearing multiple explosions on one of the islands. Soon after, low-orbiting satellites had detected smoke coming from the same area. Although there was very little forward intelligence, Seraph had suspected the explosion was either idiot teenagers fooling around with weapons or pirates blowing up stolen vessels. His opinion changed as soon as he set foot on the island. He could see a pillar of smoke rising in the distance. It smelled metallic, acidic. Something bigger was going on here.

“Bombs?” Sadhis asked.

“Possibly,” Seraph said. “Weapons testing, if I had to guess.”

“Think it’s the seythra?”

“Probably. Don't really care though, whoever it is is shit out of luck.”

As the shuttle lifted behind them, Seraph and Sadhis marched off into the jungle. Sadhis double-checked his gun, making sure a round was chambered and ready to go, before setting off behind Seraph.

 

CHAPTER 3: THE FRYING PAN

 

 

 

 

Sadhis and Seraph trekked slowly over the island. They moved with the deliberate tenacity of veteran soldiers, but the dense jungle and its inhabitants slowed them down.

They were cutting their way through a tangled patch of trees when there was a series of loud explosions. Seraph and Sadhis hit the ground and crawled to cover. The explosions had come from somewhere nearby. Seraph reasoned that they could have been detonated from as few as twenty yards from their current position. The smoke, however, still appeared to be several miles inland.

“What the hell?” Seraph said. “Are they using that whole side of the island?”

“Doubt it,” said Sadhis. “Any major operation out here, and we would've known about it sooner.”

“Yeah? You put a lot of faith in the Confederation. This is the first time we've been here in three years.”

Seraph peered out over a fallen log, scanning the jungle ahead of them.

“My guess?” Sadhis said. “The smoke was a distraction to keep us focused on moving forward.”

Seraph looked surprised. “You think the explosions were meant for us?”

Sadhis nodded. “Those bombs were definitely meant for us.”

Seraph and Sadhis hunkered under cover until they both felt certain that there would be no more explosions. They slowly got up. Both were covered in dirt and mud.

Seraph groaned. “We’ve only been on this planet for a couple hours and I hate it already.”

Sadhis sighed. “So, now what?”

Seraph surveyed the area. The smoke was thick in the air, burning his eyes. The smoke on the horizon was even thicker. His throat felt like it was on fire, and the humidity was suffocating combined with the smoke.

He considered their next step. “Option one is we move straight to that smoke. I think that's a damn suicide run. There might be other bombs, or who knows what, but I think we have to assume that path is rigged.”

“You want to go around,” Sadhis said.

Seraph nodded. “We'll lose the light in an hour or two, so we'll need to be quick.” He pulled a flask from his hip and took a swig.

Sadhis chuckled. “A little something to calm your nerves?”

“Water, jackass,” Seraph said, glaring at his partner. “Now get moving.”

Dusk was settling in when Sadhis and Seraph reached the source of the smoke. They stood at the outskirts of a small village tucked into the jungle, surrounded by low, rolling hills.

Once they had gotten their bearings, Seraph kneeled and signaled for Sadhis to stop. They surveyed the area, looking for weak points and hidden traps. . There were only five huts total, all arranged around a large fire pit. Two armed guards patrolled the area.

“Use your silencer,” Seraph said. “Take them down quick.”

Sadhis shot a glance at Seraph. Despite the Confederate Military’s merciless hostile engagement protocol, Sadhis thought that the best use of his military training was in outwitting the enemy, not in conquering it with brute force. Seraph's tactics were more traditional. He couldn’t understand why Sadhis believed military operations could succeed without killing. It was a major point of contention among the two.

Seraph sighed. “If you won’t to do it, I will. That shuttle's going to meet us at the rendezvous point in an hour, and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss it.”

Seraph held his hand out, waiting for a decision from Sadhis.

“Fine,” Sadhis snarled. “But you know how I feel about this.” He handed Seraph his weapon.

Seraph moved forward slowly, finding the perfect vantage point. He popped the sight up and aimed through it, locking onto one of the patrolling guards. He squeezed the trigger.

Nothing.

He squeezed it again. Still nothing.

“What the hell?” Seraph said through clenched teeth.

He tried to eject the magazine. Nothing came out. Sadhis must have slipped the magazine out before handing it over. Seraph whipped around, ready to lash out at his partner, but he was too late. Sadhis was gone.

Seraph scanned the shadows and could just spot Sadhis skulking toward the village with a knife at the ready. Seraph grabbed his rifle, eyed the scope, and tried to draw a bead on the guards. He grunted. He wasn’t on board with doing this Sadhis's way, but if things went south, he would do his best to protect him.

He watched as Sadhis surprised the guards from behind, kicking one in the knee and driving the knife deep into his thigh. Then, seamlessly, Sadhis spun around and kicked the second guard in the head. The guard fell to the ground and lay spread out on the grass, motionless. Without hesitation, Sadhis pounced back onto the first guard and wrapped him in a headlock until the guard fell unconscious.

Seraph waited to make sure the guards were still, then circled around the huts and came face to face with Sadhis. They would certainly have it out over this incident during the mission debrief, but now was not the time or the place.

“You okay?” Seraph whispered.

Sadhis nodded. They headed for a stand of trees to take cover and regroup. As they came around the trees, a loud gunshot ripped through the silence. They looked up to see four seythra pointing high-powered sniper rifles at them.

Seraph and Sadhis froze. Seraph's eyes danced between the four seythra guards. The seythra had an intimidating appearance, with sleek black scales outlining their muscular bodies. They had large white eyes decorated with a gray crisscross pattern inside them. They tended to look similar, with variances in their eye shape being a prominent dynamic.

The biggest of the guards held up a hand. “You move, you die,” he said.

BOOK: The Athena Operation
2.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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