Authors: Richard Sanders
THE PHOENIX RECKONING
By Richard L. Sanders
Copyright Dec 15, 2015
Book Six (of Seven) of The Phoenix Conspiracy Series
Version 2.0, License Notes:
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. It may not be re-sold for profit, however I (the author) don’t mind if you share it with others—especially since I don’t believe in DRM. Just keep in mind that at the time of publication I am an indebted student and every purchase is greatly appreciated. Also I request that you please not make it available for torrenting. Thank you for your support and understanding.
Note to the reader: this is Book Six in a series of Seven books. If you have not read the first book
The Phoenix Conspiracy
it may be found for free in the download store and on
my own personal website
intended to split the ending of this story into two books. However, I ended up torn between wanting to tell the complete story (including the resolution of each element) and winding things up in a timely manner.
Well, it turned out that, even though I had the outline fleshed out before me, it took considerably more pages and words to adequately tell the conclusions and resolutions to the many plot questions that still loom, such as: (What’s the deal with the Roscos and the Khans, do they ever fight it out? What happens to the Remorii? What has Tristan been up to all along and why is he so loyal to Raidan? How does the conflict between Kalila and Caerwyn resolve? What about the march of the Dread Fleet? Shen and his transformation, where does it take him? Do Shen and Sarah get together? What about Calvin and Rain. Or Summers? Does Nimoux ever achieve closure for the sins of his past? Who, or what, if anything, is The One True God and his/its design? Can Calvin stop it/him? Etc.) I’m sure you get the point.
And so as I churned away, putting words to pages, following my detailed outline and notes (some of which have been around since the very beginning—in 2008 when I was just 22 years old first designing the main story arc) I found the ending starting grow out of control. I chopped, trimmed, and so on, to help keep the story flowing nicely without jarring or boring interruptions, but in order to tell the complete ending, and wrap everything up to your and my satisfaction, this book was destined to be about twice as long as the others.
Twice as long wound up meaning double the effort, time, and expense to create, edit, format, and so on, and although I believed I could tell the remaining story within a 90-day deadline that my contract with Amazon required, I was only able to reliably tell half (and then some) at which point I was forced to make a Sophie’s Choice.
1. I could rush the ending (probably cutting several key details that are necessary for the resolution) and produce the book on time,
2. I could fail to produce the book on time and be penalized for breach of contract,
3. Or I could split the book in two (which it does quite naturally and seamlessly) and deliver it in two novel-length installments, telling the complete ending without rushing or omitting anything. After surveying many of you and finding your overwhelming support for the lattermost option, I eventually went with it.
And that, Dear Reader, is why you can now look forward to The Phoenix Requiem which will wrap up the story. I hope you will forgive me for having to do this. I promise you it is not in the same vein as the recent surge of “cash-grabbing” film studios who take books and turn them into two (and sometimes even THREE—I’m looking at you, The Hobbit) movies. In this case, there really is two entire novels’ worth of content remaining to tell, and, to do it justice, I need to devote that many words and pages to telling the ending. After all, this is the conclusion of (until this point) five books worth of build-up.
If you have read all of that, and find yourself willing to continue to support me as a reader and not be too upset, I want you to know that you have my personal thanks. Your support is much appreciated and, above all, my goal with everything I am doing here is to provide an enjoyable and pleasant reading experience for you. (Or listening experience, if you prefer the audiobooks.)
So, without further ado, I give you The Phoenix Reckoning, where we left off in the
Battle for Thetican System
where Queen Kalila’s fleet has engaged Rotham invaders, meanwhile Blackmoth is attempting to fly his cloaked starship into the Thetican parent star to activate his stolen isotome weapon.
THE PHOENIX RECKONING
Can Blood and Ashes Stand Before the Armies of the Damned?
In his final minute, as the ship melted all around him and the heat threatened to overwhelm him—heat so intense it would have killed a normal man long ago—Blackmoth praised the One True God with a final prayer. It was one he’d memorized long ago, even before he’d been given this honor, to be the Harbinger of the Reckoning. His lips formed the words of the Last Sacrament.
In this Moment! Hear my Prayer! Great Almighty, Everywhere! Now is Come! To Lay to Rest! The Darkness of the Wretchedest! And as they March, thy Soldiers True! Leading an Eternal Coup! For they Must Come! To Ring the Hour! And Sound the Trumpet of thy Power! In Ashes Born, in Ashes Die! The Chaos now shall Multiply! And all must Perish by thy Sword! Submitting to thy Divine Word. And with our Blood we do Baptize! And From the Nothing it Shall Rise! A Glory and a Heaven new! A Universe so Pure and True! But First We Hear the Beckoning! The Hour of the Reckoning! So Let us All Rejoin the Void! As Everything Must be Destroyed! A Sacrifice of all that’s Flawed! A Tribute to our One True God!”
He could see nothing. The ship’s systems had all failed, including its ability to dim the overwhelming brightness of the Thetican sun through the forward window; he’d gone blind staring into its majesty, finding a kind of poetic harmony between his blindness and the darkness that was coming, the darkness that would swallow the galaxy. The destruction of this star would be but the beginning; it was the Dread Fleet’s march, world to world, that would usher in the last of the One True God’s five destructions.
The ship was swiftly buckling and the heat began to scorch his skin—he felt his clothes and hair catch fire—behind him he heard the sounds of the isotome missile beginning to activate.
“Five there shall be. Five is
number—” he struggled to get out the words, his consciousness drifted in and out, and the pain, now all over his body, had become excruciating. But Blackmoth did not fight the flames, nor did he yield to his primal urge to scream. Instead, he continued to chant until he could chant no more. And then, in a moment that seemed too quick to be real, the
’s hull failed entirely.
“Status report,” said Calvin from the command position. It didn’t matter how long he’d been away from that chair, or how many roles he’d played, starships he’d captained, or away missions he’d commanded,
chair felt like home. And the instant he had retaken his station on the IWS
was the moment when he had felt like himself again. He wasn’t playing some political game, struggling to serve as Executor of the Empire, neither was he trapped on some alien starship trying to use civilian equipment to conduct recon, no, now he was home. Back in the one place in the universe that made sense to him. The one place he belonged.
“All defense systems are operational,” said Miles. His large, broad figure seemed as much a fixture on the bridge as the defense station itself. “Although we could use more missiles and ammunition for our guns. I can give you an exact count, if you’d like.”
“Just make a record of it,” said Calvin. “For when we make port. Other stations?”
systems are mostly in good working order,” said Shen. It was a great feeling to see the man back at the center, forward-most station on the ship…right where he belonged. His genius was an asset to the crew, his skills unrivaled, but most of all he was Calvin’s friend. He’d even risked his life to save Calvin, back on Remus Nine, and seeing him here, knowing that he was all right, it helped to ease the survivor’s guilt Calvin had carried ever since that fateful, blood-soaked mission.
“Primary, secondary, and tertiary?” asked Calvin.
“All critical systems are operating normally; there is some damage to the shield generator, though not enough to prevent its operation. We have also sustained minor trouble with the alteredspace drive. Again, not enough to keep us from alteredspace, as you can plainly see out the window, but some of the calibrators are out of sync. Mister Cowen reports that engineering is working on the problem and they have a solution. Secondary and tertiary systems have a glitch or two, but nothing alarming. Again, the engineering staff is doing what they can. If they haven’t fixed it by the time we dock, they should have no trouble isolating each of the issues and repairing them then.”
“Thank you, Shen,” said Calvin. It felt good to be with his friends again, and in command, able to use given names and speak casually, without having to worry about a person’s title or honorific, like he had in the queen’s service. “Sarah, how’s navigation?”
“Everything looks good over here, Cal,” said Sarah. Calvin was surprised to see his pilot wearing a standard uniform; he knew that she preferred to slightly modify them for comfort or fashion, and Calvin had always allowed it; evidently Summers had gotten to her.
“Summers,” said Calvin, twisting his chair to the left so he could see the beautiful woman next to him. Even though Calvin’s idle thoughts were on Rain, and his heart seemed to beat all the quicker when he thought of the red-haired doctor, Calvin couldn’t help the jolt of electricity he felt whenever he looked at Summers. It was like being hit with a hammer, a sudden and blunt reminder of just how undeservedly and stunningly attractive she was. Calvin blinked, putting the thought out of his mind.
“Yes, sir?” replied Summers.
The fact that she’d taken to calling him
—which had always emphasized the lower part of his lieutenant commander rank, was something he interpreted as a good sign. She trusts me now. Just as I have shown my faith in her. Finally, at last, the
crew is a functioning, fluidic team, just as it used to be when Anand was here.
“Status report regarding personnel, if you please,” said Calvin.
“With your team’s return and the acquisition of Nimoux, that gives us forty crewmen. Still, six fewer than ideal, but enough to cover all the rotations. As for the Special Forces garrison, of our original twenty-four, none remain. All have been killed in action or else have left the ship. We have one trained member of Special Forces remaining to us—Captain Nimoux—and four soldiers, all mercenaries. Nimoux reports that, for mercenaries, the four soldiers are reasonably well trained, probably thanks to the late Captain Pellew’s drills, but none of them are professional soldiers.”
“Which leaves us with what exactly?” asked Calvin.
“Forty crewmen and five soldiers, or a total of forty-foul souls,” said Summers. “Please note that I have counted Captain Nimoux both toward our number of crewmen and our number of soldiers, since he has been assigned to both duties. I also omitted counting Rez’nac, as I’m uncertain what you wish to do with him.”
“Thank you, Summers,” said Calvin, still in shock that his entire Special Forces garrison had been wiped out. It had been hard enough learning that Pellew had mutinied and taken control of the ship in order to secure the isotome weapon—no doubt for Raidan—and harder still to learn that Pellew and all of his men had failed to hold onto it against a solo operator who had singlehandedly boarded the
, slaughtered its soldiers, and stolen the isotome weapon, returning the total number of missing isotome missiles to fifteen. Which put roughly…as many as 130 billion lives in danger.
“Let’s not forget the elephant in the room,” said Nimoux from his seat on Calvin’s right. Calvin still had trouble getting used to the fact that the legendary Lafayette Nimoux, his former enemy, was serving aboard the
Calvin’s command! Calvin had even considered turning the ship and the mission over to Nimoux. After all, he was the legend, he was the greatest operative of Intel Wing, and he commanded a higher rank; Calvin paled compared to him, despite his own impressive record that included two silver stars. But this was Calvin’s ship and Calvin’s people; they knew him, they trusted him, and Calvin just couldn’t turn it over to someone else. Not so long as he was aboard anyway.
“You mean the hull breach on deck four, don’t you?” asked Calvin.
“Yes,” said Nimoux. “Although it has been expertly patched by our crack team of engineers and the deck has been cleared for use, I don’t think it’s wise to trust that solution to hold out forever…especially if our current mission is still to enter Polarian Forbidden Space.”
“It is,” confirmed Calvin. “And I agree with you. We have no choice but to make port to receive a proper repair. We’ll also have to take on new soldiers. Present company excluded, I don’t trust the ones we have to cut the muster when push comes to shove.”
“I agree that we need more soldiers,” said Nimoux. “Considering the likely chance that we will have to deploy onto a station, board a ship, or send a team to the ground somewhere—somehow—but I’ve started working with Ferreiro and the others and they show potential. More importantly, I have gotten them to trust me. And they now know not to question my commands.”
“If you want them, then you may keep them,” said Calvin, still skeptical of their capabilities—after all, where were they when Pellew and the others were fighting for the isotome weapon? Had these four been too inept, or too cowardly to participate in the action?
“Thank you, sir,” said Nimoux. Being called
by the likes of Lafayette Nimoux was flattering, but it felt wrong.
“Just Calvin is enough,” said Calvin. “No ‘
“As you wish, Calvin,” said Nimoux.
Well, that was easy
, thought Calvin. If only Summers had proven so compliant.
It might have saved me a lot of trouble early on
“Sir,” said Summers. “We know we need to make port to fix the ship and collect more soldiers, but you haven’t given us a proper destination. Our current heading is still
The Charred Worlds
, Polarian space.”
“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Calvin. “But you’re right, we can’t make port at
The Charred Worlds
“If we keep moving this way, sir, soon there won’t be any Imperial outposts or stations anywhere nearby,” said Summers.
“You’re quite right.”
She gave him a blank look, clearly wanting him to explain further. Calvin was hesitant. He had an idea in mind, and, although he’d furiously debated it inside his own head as to whether it was brilliant or insane, he didn’t want to share it with his fellow officers until he’d decided whether or not it was something he wanted to do. But, as the hours had gone by, and the
had passed up several opportunities to divert course and make port at one of the Imperial stations, Calvin realized that he had made up his mind after all.
“We are going to make port,” he said.
“Have you decided where?” asked Summers.
“Sarah,” Calvin turned his chair away from Summers so he could face the helm. “Please set course for Aleator, best jump depth.”
?” asked Summers. “You can’t be serious!” Indeed, the sense of surprise that permeated the room seemed to come from every single person, except Calvin himself.
“That’s right, Aleator,” he said.
“Aye, aye,” said Sarah. “Course laid in.” She obeyed the command as given, without questioning Calvin; he was happy to see that her faith in him remained unchanged, even if her taste in uniform protocol had changed.
Stars filled the window as Sarah brought the ship out of alteredspace. They disappeared just as quickly after she engaged the new jump. Dropping out of alteredspace to change course was the fastest way, although technically unnecessary.
“I’m afraid my reaction is much the same as the Commander’s,” said Nimoux, getting Calvin’s attention. “Aleator does not seem like an ideal place for repairs, taking on soldiers, or really much of anything, to be honest.”
“Calvin, have you lost your mind?” asked Summers. He was glad to see her emotional side break through her armor of disciplined etiquette and protocol, and Calvin never minded when his officers legitimately raised concerns with his orders. That helped him to keep giving good ones.
“I assure you my mind is quite intact and accounted for,” he said, turning back to face Summers.
“Then, please explain,” she folded her arms and looked at him skeptically.
“The last time we had soldiers on this ship,” said Calvin, “they were a combination of professional Special Forces operatives, under the command of Captain Pellew, and several mercenaries on loan from Raidan—four of which we still have. Then, in a moment of crisis, when you needed to trust your soldiers to execute your orders and destroy the isotome missile, they instead mutinied and took over the ship. The mercenaries only cared about what Raidan was paying them, and the Special Forces soldiers were faithful to their CO, Captain Pellew. I don’t think I have to remind you,” he looked now to Nimoux, whose bandages clearly showed that he was still recovering from a gunshot wound, “that having untrustworthy soldiers can be a very dangerous thing.”