space opera, military scifi, anti hero, enemies with benefits, no romance
For fans of: Halo, Warhammer, Battlestar Galactica
After years of tension, war has finally come to the Union worlds. Hordes of rebels, seeking revenge for their lost worlds, ravage the Peripheral Zones.
One of the leaders of the rebellion is Charon Antares. When another one of his braver mission ends in disaster, the rich and powerful sovereign plans to deprive him of his authority. To save his status, Antares agrees to execute her insane order that may cost the lives of thousands of his people.
A young and easy-going girl named Cerridwen lives in a peaceful world. When she finds out about the tragedy that happened to her family, she vows revenge, but without collaboration with Antares and the rebels, she will not be able to fulfil her plan.
Meanwhile, a group of the Union scientists decides to end the rebel’s invasions, once and for all - they build a deadly, inhumane weapon out of sight of the government.
Dagmar Rokita is a Polish writer and an artist. She writes and illustrates dark sci-fi series called "Bloodstained Skies". There are two things that inspire her: imaginary world of geek culture and the deepest corners of human psychology. Huge doses of heavy metal and history documentaries are her creative fuel. She wants to become a famous artist because she needs money to buy sophisticated food for her cat.
The echo of footsteps in the hallway was their only companion. Long, obscure corridors of the ArtEvo Company seemed endless. Several metres above, on the surface of the planet Ernef, nightlife bustled on for its common citizens. No one ever wondered what was located deep underneath their feet.
The first person halted in front of the wall with the control panel on it. He typed the access code, and the heavy doors opened with a scrunch. Accompanying him was a scientist who entered the room first. The sensors were activated by his movement, and an icy-white afterglow lit up the space ahead. They stood on the narrow metal balcony overlooking the small production hall.
Twenty exoskeletons rested on the brackets like the sleeping guardians of the forgotten overlord. Each of them was four metres tall and similar in posture to a crouching gargoyle. Their arms were thick, tapering to a three-claw grab. Massive, hydraulically supported armours for these exoskeletons were cast from coruscium, the most durable alloy ever invented. The machines held a rifle, too large and heavy for ordinary soldiers, but perfect for them.
“So, this is your secret weapon?” asked the Celestian, crossing his arms. Bony features and subtle wrinkles on his slightly tanned face became more visible in the white glaring light. His large, dark blue eyes followed every step and gesture of the collaborator. His small, triangular ears stuck out from under his shiny, graphite hair. To avoid attention, he dressed like a common capital city dweller – in baggy trousers and a long coat with a hood.
“Those are just the prototypes,” replied the Ifrit, leaning from the railing. “They look archaic, but I’ve added an improvement to them.”
Despite the pale light, the pupils of his round, yellow eyes dilated. His amber skin was smooth, resembling a sandstone to the touch. Growing out of his cheekbones were tiny spikes that gave him the appearance of an ancient dragon with long, slightly curved horns. The Ifrit moved towards the spiral stairs. He ran down smoothly as if his stocky body was weightless.
“Just don't touch anything,” he warned, pointing a claw at the machine.
The Celestian joined him and looked around the hall. He leisurely walked closer to the massive, dark grey exoskeleton. He circled the machine, surveying every single part of it. He lifted his head to stare at the black lenses of the disproportionately small helmet.
“There’s no difference between them and what I myself created twenty years ago,” he argued.
“I suppose…” interposed the Ifrit. He dug around the pocket of his boiler suit and took out a reader. “But you missed something.”
The reptile turned on the device. He tapped the icon and displayed the holographic diagram of the complicated circuit. He took a deep breath to curb his enthusiasm so that his emotions did not get better of him.
The Ifrit resumed, “So far, we were able to control their mechanism only through the operator’s mind, right? Nothing new about it. But when such a person refused to execute our orders, we lost control over the entire machine. We couldn’t stop it or make it do anything. We were totally dependent on the operator.” He put the device right under the man’s nose. “Do you see it?”
The Celestian blinked and leaned his head back. “What’s this?” he asked, opening his eyes wider.
“An implant, mandatory for everyone who wants to test the new generation of the exoskeletons.”
“And what does it do?”
“It allows us to transmit impulses into their brains, which would make the machines do certain actions as we want.”
In silence, the Celestian glanced at the machine and the collaborator, considering the risk of losing his good name and high position. The Union was not favourable to his idea but would support him financially only if he withheld the majority of this new information.
The Ifrit broke the silence. “So, what are we gonna do?” He looked at them, standing beside the exoskeleton. “Are we going to reveal it to the Union?”
“No way,” the Celestian broke in. “If Felvennis discovers that we are going to continue the SynthBreed Project, he’ll run to the General Committee and snitch on us.”
“Of course, Felvennis…” the Ifrit muttered and sniffed loudly. “I thought you’d bought off all your opponents.”
“For now, only the local committees so that they don't pry into the building and basic tests, but we have to relocate soon, anyway. I bought, nearly for free, a ruined temple complex on Irkheor. There we can work in peace; however, we should be careful with rebels. I cannot afford to provide proper security for us. I’ve made almost all the arrangements. All I need is to get rid of the rest of the opponents in today’s vote.”
The Ifrit nodded. “If the Union withdraws the financing, we’ll be in trouble.”
“I know. That’s why I’ll need your help if I can’t deal with Felvennis by myself.”
“You can depend on me,” the reptile said, and his gaze rested on the speaker’s face.
The Celestian headed towards the stairs, and his employee followed him. They closed the gate behind them and returned to the main corridor. Right in front of the door, the Celestian halted. The Ifrit stood aside, making way for him.
“Anything wrong?” asked the Ifrit, after a while. He tilted his head, and his nostrils flared in anxiety.
“Nothing. But don't you think all this is a bit… immoral?”
The Ifrit narrowed his glow-in-the-dark eyes. He had known his employer for years now and had learnt to decipher his expressions. Choosing his words carefully, he put his thoughts in order and, after a while, said them aloud, “Depends on whose perspective we look at.” He sniffed and whispered, “By controlling minds, we are breaking the laws of nature, but we’re not doing this only for ourselves. We stopped believing that the Union would provide safety for us and our families, so we took things in our own hands. We had to.”
The Celestian nodded. “Rebels feel unpunished. You’ve probably heard about the assault behind the Rhemaxos line. Now they venture deeper and deeper into our territories.”
“We must defend the Union,” said the reptile, “even if we have to pay a price like this.”
The Celestian pulled his hood to keep his face covered and added, “Keep your conscience clear. No one has the right to blame us for our will to save our loved ones.”
They sneaked out the back door. The Ifrit waited until his employer walked away and then went in the opposite direction.
Cerridwen Felvennis, a twenty-year-old Celestian girl, entered the shooting range. Dressed in a loose, sleeveless sweatsuit, she halted in the middle of the room. With training guns in both her hands and a virtual reality goggles and headphones, she was well prepared for the fight. Every single time, moments like these filled her veins with adrenaline. Her fingers shook slightly but more from excitement than nerves. Drops of sweat dripped down her well-toned arms. Cerridwen waited the three seconds before an inscription was displayed on the screen:
A green, three-dimensional grid on a black background appeared in front of her eyes. Cerridwen raised her weapons. She stood still for a moment to calm her mind and sharpen her senses. She could not afford even a second of distraction or loss of vigilance. Perhaps, one day, she would fight for her life with a real enemy and would have to make use of all her acquired skills. Hence, even during routine daily training, she felt as if she was balanced between life and death.
Somewhere in the background, a white dot flashed by and a low, barely audible, static resonated in her headphones. Cerridwen pulled the trigger, and the virtual bullet liquidated the target which turned red. The counter changed her score from zero to one.
Then came a moment of silence, which was written in the simulation in the assumption that it would distract the trainee, but Cerridwen was not deceived by that. Her eyes remained focused on the screen. Two targets appeared at the same time, one near her back and the other on her right. She crouched down. Taking a half-turn, she spread her arms and struck at both the dots. The longer break did not occur this time, and more targets started appearing on all sides. The girl shot them down one by one, sometimes leaping over or dodging them, always striking them down with precision.
The simulation stopped. Seeing the counter showing the number twelve made her smile at herself. She had been training like that every morning since she was four, so she decided that nothing would happen if she skipped one day. She was well prepared. She had other plans for today. She took off her goggles and put the guns aside on a metal rack. Breathing heavily, she released her long hair, which reached nearly up to her waist and reflected all shades of bronze. Her skin shone like a tanned sculpture. Her green eyes were large and striking, adrenaline had constricted the pupils to a pinpoint for better focus. Her heart raced as if she had sneaked out of death’s embrace.
She entered the hallway. The light was switched on only in the living room, casting a yellow glow on the walls. She headed towards her room, but hearing loud talks between two people, she stopped and listened.
“What's the deal this time?” she whispered to herself, approaching the door.
Format : ebook
Page Count : 286