Read The Infinity Brigade #1 Stone Cold Online

Authors: Andrew Beery

Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Hard Science Fiction, #Military, #Space Fleet, #Space Marine, #Teen & Young Adult

The Infinity Brigade #1 Stone Cold

The Infinity Brigade
#1

Stone Cold

Copyright 2016 by Andrew Beery

Kindle Edition, v2

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I’d like to thank my wife Lori and my two daughters, CJ and Jackie, for putting up with me while I wrote this next book in the Catherine Kimbridge universe.  Any similarities between people in this book and my immediate family and friends is purely intentional. Of course, I wouldn’t be much of a pastor if I didn’t acknowledge God – to Him be all the glory!

NOTE from the author

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The Infinity Brigade #1,

Stone Cold

~~~

Author’s Note: The events described in this book closely parallel those told in the Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles. However, they follow a different character and the reader need not have read the Catherine Kimbridge series in order to enjoy this series. That said, if you want to know more about the events that are occurring, the reader is encouraged to check out the Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles as well
.

Chapter 1: Death of a World…

By any reasonable definition, this was a bad day. Oh it started out well enough. I had this sweet deal going with my folks. I apply myself in school and pull in superior marks and they let me spend my free time surfing. Surfing on Mars is seriously underrated. Every major city has its own water dome and every water dome makes its own A-frames… those perfect waves that hold your sled for what seems like hours at a time… it was heaven on a wave!

I was surfing at my favorite beach under the dome at Cerberus Province. My sled and I… we were one with the wave. The meteorologists had programed the dome’s weather to be perfect. Everything was perfect… until it wasn’t.

My link started buzzing against my wrist right in the middle of an epic wave. I hit the mute which should have been an end to it but the emergency override kicked in and it started sending mild electric shocks into my hand to force me to answer it.

“WHAT,” I yelled into the link. A holographic display lit up. It was my mom.

Did you ever see somebody and just know that something major was up? Whatever it was, she was beside herself. Look, I know I’ve not always been the best son in the world but mom was looking like she had just spent some serious time crying… and even I could see that now was not the time to give her any more grief. I learned later that single insight had probably saved my life. As I said… this was a bad day. 

“Swing by the school and pick up your sister. Head straight to the spaceport at Elon City. AG, don’t stop for anything honey… please promise you won’t stop for anything!”

“Mom I promise. I’ll pick up Jilly and meet you at the spaceport. What’s up?”

My mom looked over her shoulder and then leaned closer to the optical pickup. “Honey I can’t tell you… especially not on an open line. Just trust me… move fast. Don’t change… just drive as fast as you can.”

“You want me to keep wearing my wetti? Mom that is seriously uncool.”

“AG GO! GO NOW!”

I rushed to where I had parked the shared community car I had reserved only to discover it was gone! That should not have been possible. I had a reserve lock on that car until six pm. How in the world was I going to get my kid sister?

I hailed an automated taxi that was floating by. I didn’t have any money with me – I was a college student – we never have money—especially when you’re a precocious fourteen year old. I tapped my link and called my mom’s office in the district control center. Mom and dad worked as mid-level executives for the management company that currently owned the contract for Mar’s governance.

Mom didn’t answer but her computer avatar, Maggie, did.

“Good afternoon Anthony Grant Stone. Your mother is currently in a meeting and cannot be disturbed. May I be of assistance?”

Computer AIs had come a long way since I was a kid and Mom’s was smarter than most but I could never convince Maggie to call me AG.

“Maggie, somebody hopped my ride and mom wants me and Jilly at the Spaceport like yesterday or sooner.”

“I would recommend taking a taxi then,” Maggie suggested.

Duh…
I thought to myself. Out loud I said, “I’m in a cab now. I need some fare money.”

“One moment Anthony Grant Stone… Taxi 4-1-9 has received digital compensation for your trip. You are to proceed directly to the spaceport.”

“What about my sister?”

“Jillian Marie Stone will be picked up by your parents. They will attempt to meet with you at the spaceport.”

“What do you mean ‘attempt’?”

“’Attempt’ to make an effort to do, accomplish, solve, or effect. In this particular case I believe your parents will make an effort to rendezvous with you at the spaceport.”

“Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“You are in a taxi heading to the spaceport.”

Did I mention this was a bad day? I gave up trying to reason with mom’s overly literal AI. Besides the taxi was arriving at the Elon Spaceport.

The spaceport was busier than I had ever seen it. There were marines directing traffic. Shuttles were taking off and landing in a continuous stream. I got out of the car and just stared at the mass of moving people. I must have looked quite odd. I was tall and broad-shouldered for a kid my age. With my blond ponytail and bright blue surfer’s wetsuit I stood out. Maybe that’s why one of the marines noticed me amidst the chaos and stepped over to me.

“You’re looking lost young man. Where are you headed?”

“I have no idea Sir. I was surfing and my mom called and said to head to the spaceport.”

The marine shook his head. “You and about sixty thousand other folks who will never make the list. You got a name kid?”

“Stone, AG Stone”

The man checked a datapad that he pulled from a cargo pocket in his Mars BDU.

“Hot Damn! We got a live one. Son, I don’t know who your folks are… or who they know… but you have a priority boarding on the next available shuttle.”

“Uhhh… that’s great I guess. Shuttle to where?”

“Off this rock son. That’s all that matters.”

“What about my sister and my parents?”

The soldier checked his list again. “They’re listed here as well. Looks like you are all set. Let me get you to your shuttle.”

“If it’s all right with you, Sir, I’ll just wait for my family to show up.”

“Sorry son. It doesn’t work like that. We load the shuttles as fast and as often as we can. You’re here so you go. That way there’s another seat for someone else later.”

“But my family…”

“They’ll catch the first available shuttle once they get here. They may already be in a shuttle for all we know.”

He must have seen me continue to hesitate because the next thing I knew he was reaching towards his weapons belt. Thought he was going to shoot me or something but instead he pulled a small paper card from a pocket on the belt. He handed it to me.

“If anything happens and you need someone to watch your six; you give that number a call and tell them that Gunny Grimes gave you that. You got me son?”

“Thank you Sir.”

“I’m not a ‘Sir’ son… I work for a living. Let’s get you on that bird heading to Phobos Station”

***

Thirty minutes later I was standing with about fifteen thousand other people in a domed assembly area on the larger of Mars’ small moons. It was like being at a soccer game… without the soccer.

The dome was perfectly transparent and faced Mars. Because of Phobos’ orbit speed, we could see the planet rotating very slowly below us. In a few minutes, we would be on the dark side of the planet.

Phobos has a diameter of just about twenty kilometers and a surface gravity of virtually nothing point nothing. As a result the base used artificial gravity plating. The artificial gravity made it feel like I was back at my home. There was something about artificial gravity that made it feel… artificial.

On Mars itself, gravity is only about thirty seven percent of Earth’s. To keep us ‘Martians’ healthy most private and public structures used gravity plating.  This served to help make sure our bones and muscles would stay strong enough to allow us to travel to places like Disney World in a place called Florida on Earth. My dad even kept our house dialed up an extra ten percent. He said it was cheap exercise.

I had almost given up looking for my mom, dad and sister. There were just too many people crammed into too small an area. There were several display monitors on the walls that had scrolling lists of all the people who had been brought up. I tried to get close enough to read them but, again, there were too many people.

I had finally learned a little bit about what was going on. Apparently we were finally at war with a group of aliens called the Doggi Poo or Doggi Dew or something like that. I never could hear the name right – I later learned they were called the D’lralu. These were apparently the same dudes that killed Catherine Kimbridge aboard the
ESX Arizona
back in 2067. There was a memorial to her on Olympus Mons. I had seen it… twice. It still boggled my mind that Cat, as everyone called her, was somehow still alive… and from a young boy’s point of view—utterly hot!

Some big Oaf stepped on my foot as he pushed by me. Considering I was still wearing water shoes from when I was surfing, it hurt.

I still didn’t understand why we had been flown up to this small rock in the sky. If they were going to attack Mars; I would think we would be safer down on the planet’s surface where we could hide rather than be trapped like mice in a cage here on Phobos. Goes to show how little I knew.

As I finally worked my way close enough to read the scrolling names on the display, I saw that the names had been listed alphabetically.  I watched my name scrolled by… there were no other Stones on it!

Before I could fully comprehend what this might mean… a voice came over the loud speaker ordering us all to look down at the ground and to close our eyes. Naturally, I did the exact opposite. I looked up at Mars. I watched the planet, and everybody on it, including my parents and sister, die.

Death came in the form of a series of brilliant flashes. I thought perhaps the D’lralu were lobbing nukes at us. I wish they had. At least then, some of the nearly thirty million people left on the surface might have lived. The bright flashes suddenly started coming faster and faster. In a moment the surface of the planet was a thousand times brighter than the Sun. My eyes were stinging but I couldn’t look away. The brightness began to fade but at the same time a red aura flew around the planet.

I knew in my heart, at that moment… that despite being in a room with fifteen thousand other people… I was utterly alone.

***

The next seven and a half years kind of existed in a haze for me. Of the twenty eight million people that had once lived on Mars there were less than ten thousand left. Most of those had been off planet when the attack occurred. A small fraction like myself were lucky enough to get off the surface just before the D’lralu kinetic energy weapons struck. KEWs, as I would learn later, were indiscriminate killers that did not discern between innocent eight year-olds girls named Jilly, and trained soldiers like Gunnery Sergeant Grimes.

The massive outpouring of support from Earthers meant I always had a place to stay if I wanted it.  I always had access to any number of universities… again if I wanted it. I even had access to the best surfing in Hawaii. But in the end, I wanted none of it. All any of it did was remind me about what I had lost.

About three years into my exile on Earth, I started running with a rough crowd with plenty of booze and an abundance of willing gals. Thanks to good genetics, an above average intelligence, years of surfing and my dad wanting to keep the house at above earth-normal gravity I was both strong and smart. My piss-poor attitude meant that I was a bit of a brawler. It wasn’t long before I was leading our band of misfits.

We weren’t criminals per se, but we were experts at finding out just how close to the line we could get. 

One thing led to another I got to spend quality time talking with a judge. In fairness, the man tried to help. He explained how sorry he was for all that I had gone through. I was pretty drunk at the time so I don’t remember everything he said. I do remember yawning. Fortunately, he was good enough to remind me of the conversation the next week… and then the week after.

It got to the point where I kind of had a standing appointment with him. I never did learn the man’s name… to me he was just ‘the judge.’

He’d tell me how I was wasting my life. How my aptitude scores were off the charts. How my life could be so much more. How my life could mean something. I would listen… and then I would yawn.

Seven and a half years into my new, miserable existence, the judge cheated. He started by reminding me that Jilly would have been sixteen in a few months. He reminded me that I had literally spent almost as much time wasting my life as she had spent living hers. He asked me ‘What might she have done with the last seven and a half years… had she been the one given the chance?’

I was a big guy by this time. I had muscles on my muscles and tattoos on my tattoos. I was, also, quite drunk. I was in no mood to listen to this guy, judge or not, talk about my dead sister. I attempted to put my fist through his face. In hindsight, that was probably the biggest mistake I ever made… and boy am I thankful I made it.

In my defense, I was coming off my normal Wednesday night drinking binge… or was it my Tuesday night drinking binge?  At any rate, my reactions were slow and my gray matter was thoroughly pickled.

The judge smoothly side stepped my punch and pulled my arm forward. At the same time, he struck out with the heel of his other hand with more force than I would have thought humanly possible. There was a loud popping sound. I remember being curious as to what made that sound and was intent on investigating it… just as soon as I dealt with the fire in my shoulder.

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