Authors: Richard Turner
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military
The Kurgan War - Book 3
By Richard Turner
©2015 by Richard Turner
Published 2015 by Richard Turner
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission, except for brief quotations to books and critical reviews. This story is a work of fiction. Characters and events are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Table of Contents
Captain Tarina Pheto stared down at her flight console and let out a sigh. She was bored and tired. They had been floating in space for nearly twenty-four hours and so far there had been absolutely nothing on her screen. Not even a comet or asteroid flying nearby to relieve the monotony. Behind her, her friend, Captain Wendy Sullivan, was fast sleep. She had dozed off a couple of hours ago, and Tarina didn’t see the point in waking her up. She actually envied her friend’s ability to relax. Tarina knew that there would be no rest for her until they were rescued. She tried stretching out inside the confines of her fighter’s cockpit but found that her arms were too long when they touched the roof.
All of a sudden, the proximity alarm on Tarina’s console light flashed on, scaring her. She checked her screen and saw that whatever was out there was located directly above them. Her heart began to race. It had to be a rescue ship. Tarina turned her head and looked out the window at the top of her cockpit and found what she was looking for. A vessel, the size of a cruiser, was slowly descending toward them. Fear instantly replaced euphoria. It wasn’t a Terran vessel but a Kurgan one.
“Is something going on?” asked Wendy, waking from her slumber.
“I’m sorry, Wendy. It doesn’t look like we’re going to make it home,” said Tarina. Her hand began to shake as she reached for the ship’s self-destruct switch. She didn’t want to die, but their orders were explicit. At no time could their jump fighter fall into the hands of the enemy. Every pilot in the First Special Warfare Squadron understood that they had to be prepared to sacrifice their lives if need be.
Wendy closed her eyes and awaited her death.
The enemy ship was soon right above them. Its cargo bay doors slid open. Tarina intended to wait until they were inside before she blew up their ship, hopefully taking the Kurgan vessel with them. Within seconds, they were floating inside the enemy ship. Through her cockpit glass, Tarina could see Chosen auxiliaries and Kurgan soldiers in survival suits waiting to take possession of their captured prize.
“Goodbye, Michael,” said Tarina as she flipped up the red safety cover and placed her index finger on the self-destruct switch.
The doors beneath their craft began to close. There was no chance to escape now. Tarina looked over at the Kurgans as they ran toward her ship. It was time. She pushed down on the self-destruct device. However, nothing happened. She flipped it up and down a couple of times trying desperately to end her life before the Kurgans could get their hands on her and her ship.
“Tarina, what’s wrong?” asked Wendy.
“The ship, it won’t self-destruct.” Out of the corner of her eye, Tarina could see a Chosen soldier reaching for the hatch to open the cockpit. “No!” she screamed at the top of her lungs.
In the dead of night, Tarina bolted straight up in bed. Her breathing sounded like she had just run a marathon. Her slender body was covered with sweat.
“Easy does it,” said a soothing voice.
Tarina turned and saw Wendy sitting next to her. “You were dreaming again,” explained her friend. “You were back in the fighter, weren’t you?”
“Yes.” Tarina pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.
The room was dark. The silvery light from a nearby moon shone in through a window beside their bunk bed.
Wendy glanced down at her watch. “It’s nearly dawn. I know you, you won’t go back to sleep, not now. Would you like to go for a walk and clear your mind?”
Tarina nodded and climbed out of her bed. She slipped on her sandals and stood up. Like every woman in the camp, Tarina wore a loose-fitting gray shirt with matching pants. There was not much need for anything else as the temperature outside never dropped below thirty Celsius, even at night. Together the women quietly walked past the rows of beds filled with sleeping people until they came to the back door and stepped outside.
Since they had arrived at their re-education center after a week of questioning, both had been surprised by the lack of security. There were no fences, no guard towers; they were needed as the camp was on an island in the middle of nowhere. Above them in the night sky floated several dirigibles. They were brightly lit up with messages of peace and the hope for a better tomorrow under the Kurgan Empire. The steady stream of propaganda never stopped. All day and night the people in the camp were bombarded with images of a better life that awaited them all, but only after they had taken the Kurgan religion into their hearts. Tarina had noticed that the families with children were always the first to convert, followed by youths separated from their parents, and then the married couples. The elderly and prisoners of war almost never left the island.
“Come on,” said Wendy, placing a hand on Tarina’s shoulder. They walked in silence to the beach where they found a washed up log and sat down.
The rhythmic sound of the waves lapping the sandy shore helped calm Tarina’s troubled mind. She had shaved off her snow-white hair the day after they arrived in the camp, leaving her brown skin smooth on the top of her head.
“Thanks,” said Tarina. “You always know what it takes to look after me.”
“Think nothing of it. You were there for me after Lloyd died back on Derra-5. I don’t know how I would have gotten over his death without you by my side.”
Tarina reached over and squeezed Wendy’s hand. “What do you think today’s lesson will be? The Holy Principles of Kurgan or the sacred tenets of a pure life under the Lord?”
Wendy groaned. “Not more tenets. I can say those bloody things in my sleep, and there are over one hundred of them.”
“Me, I’m hoping for a lesson on how to escape from this miserable rock.”
Wendy chuckled. “That would be good, wouldn’t it? However, we have no idea where we are. We could be just across the border on an old human colony, or we could be thousands of light-years inside Kurgan space. Even if we did somehow managed to steal a ship, we couldn’t make a jump back home if we don’t know where we are to start with. If we blindly jumped, we could end our flight inside the middle of a burning sun, and that would put an end to our dreams of making it back to the fleet in real short order.”
“Wendy, you’re the smartest navigator in the whole fleet. Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t take the chance to escape if it were given to you.”
“You know I would. However, in case you hadn’t noticed it, we’re on a rock surrounded by water. Kurgan ships only come once a month and that’s to take the converts to their new homes.”
“I know, but I’m getting scared. There’s a rumor floating around the camp that they intend to move all of the prisoners of war to another planet.”
“Tarina, you of all people should know better. There are a dozen new rumors spread each day in the meal lines and not a one of them has come true.”
“I hear you, but something in my gut tells me that something bad is being planned.”
Wendy placed an arm around Tarina and squeezed her tight. “Well, if something is going to happen, at least we’re together.”
Tarina turned her head and looked into her friend’s eyes. “Wendy, promise me that if you ever get the chance you’ll try to escape.”
“You know I’d never leave you.”
Tarina’s tone turned serious. “Promise me.”
“Okay, I promise to make a run for it if I can. You’re scaring me. I’ve never heard you talk like this.”
“And I’ve never felt this scared in all my life.” Tarina placed a hand over Wendy’s. Somehow she knew their lives were about to change and they were helpless to stop it. Her eyes teared up at the thought that she would probably never again see the man she loved. She looked up into the night sky and wondered where Michael Sheridan was and if he was still alive.
A bone-chilling wind whipped down the narrow street stirring up the snow. People turned their backs to the gust of air, trying to keep warm. The smoke from dozens of fires burning out in the open hung low in the air.
Michael Sheridan pulled his hood up and kept on walking. He wasn’t wearing his usual combat uniform. Instead, he was bundled up from head to toe in old, worn civilian clothing. He stopped for a second and took refuge from the wind in the doorway of a building. He glanced over and saw his reflection in the glass. His dark green eyes looked as bright as ever. However, he barely recognized the face of the man in the glass. His face was dirty and his neck itched from the beard he had grown. Sheridan looked at his watch and saw that he had less than fifteen minutes to meet his contact. He gritted his teeth and stepped out into the blustery cold. He turned a sharp corner, almost hitting an old woman who was sitting on the ground with a cup at her feet. Sheridan dug out a couple of coins and tossed them into the cup before picking up his pace. After weeks of careful planning, he couldn’t afford to be late.
He hadn’t gone more than a block when the feeling of being followed returned. He fought the urge to turn about and see if there was someone behind him. As he passed a closed shop, he glanced out of the corner of his eye and saw the reflection of two men walking less than ten meters behind him. He had no idea who they were, nor did he care.He just knew that he had to lose them.
Up ahead he saw an alleyway. He waited until the last second before turning on his heel and dashing down the rubbish-filled lane. Sheridan could hear the sound of feet running to catch up with him. He soon came to an abandoned junkyard and dove through a hole in the fence. Without looking back to see if his pursuers were still following him, Sheridan took cover behind a tall pile of old machinery.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small handheld taser and turned it on. Although he was armed, he wanted to know who was after him and why.
A man’s gravelly voice called out, “There’s no use in hiding. You can’t escape from here. Why don’t you just walk out where we can see you? We mean you no harm. My boss would just like to ask you a few questions.”
Sheridan felt like yelling ‘screw you’ but decided to keep quiet instead. He ducked down and edged his way deeper inside the maze of junk. He could hear the two men talking to one another as they searched for him. It did not take him long to reach the back of the yard. He could see an open gate that led out into another alley.