Star Viking (Extinction Wars Book 3)

BOOK: Star Viking (Extinction Wars Book 3)
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

 

SF Books by Vaughn Heppner:

 

DOOM STAR SERIES

Star Soldier

Bio Weapon

Battle Pod

Cyborg Assault

Planet Wrecker

Star Fortress

Cyborgs!
(Novella published in
Planetary Assault
)

 

EXTINCTION WARS SERIES

Assault Troopers

Planet Strike

Star Viking

 

OTHER SF NOVELS

The Lost Starship

Alien Honor

Alien Shores

Accelerated

Strotium-90

I, Weapon

 

Visit www.Vaughnheppner.com for more information.

 

Star Viking

(Extinction Wars 3)

 

by Vaughn Heppner

 

Copyright © 2014 by the author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without permission in writing from the author.

 

-1-

The alien didn’t look like a bomb.

He stood seven feet tall and resembled an upright tiger, with muscles bulging against his green one-piece. A breather covered his snout, but I could tell he snarled as he raced at me. The Lokhar—that’s what the tiger-alien was called—possessed hands like a man. From the fingertips, titanium-tipped claws gleamed wetly. No doubt, the Lokhar meant to shred me from head to toe, leaving my blood splattered against the bulkheads.

Me? I’m Creed, Commander Creed. I’d never liked my first name so I didn’t use it anymore. Neither did anyone else.

I’d been inspecting the latest automated factory. This was the last of many imported from the Lokhar Empire. The complex rested a few kilometers outside of Laramie, Wyoming, or what was left of it, anyway. The Earth had died six long years ago, first nuked and then sprayed with a deadly bio-terminator.

The automated factories were huge affairs, bigger than several old football stadiums combined. The Lokhar Empire industrialists who had shipped this one to Earth had used seven freighters to bring it to the solar system. Tramp-haulers had labored two entire months taking the sections from the parked freighters and setting them down in Wyoming. I’d kept track. It had taken four hundred and seventy-three shuttle flights from orbit. A special force-screen sealed the factory from the poisons presently floating through our planet’s atmosphere.

Incidentally, the industrialists’ reps had left a month ago. The automated systems had run smoothly for two weeks. The giant plant was supposed to be empty. The tiger must have waited a month alone in here to make his attempt.

I was part of the effort to rehabilitate the planet and save the final one percent of humanity. They lived in giant space freighters orbiting our dead world. Ever since we’d learned that aliens inhabited the Orion Arm with us, human survival had been one long uphill battle after another. These automated factories were helping to cleanse the poisons from Earth.

The tiger roared. It was a deeply throaty sound, reverberating off the walls. His running bounds dramatically increased. It seemed as if he had springs in his legs. No doubt, he had bionic enhancements. Yet, Lokhars supposedly abhorred such modifications to their bodies. They didn’t even allow fillings in their teeth. Nevertheless, four more jumps would bring those claws to my throat.

I held a .44 Magnum, the same gun that had killed Princess Nee four years ago, the Purple Tamika Emperor’s daughter-wife. She’d ordered the death of every human aboard the Dreadnought
Indomitable
. My slugs had stopped the order and ensured the continuation of the mission to the portal planet.

That’s a long story, though. Maybe I’ll tell it to you someday.

As the Lokhar charged me, I pulled the trigger three times.
Boom, boom, boom.
The shots were deafening within the confines of the corridor. The first slug whipped the head back even as half of it disintegrated in a spray of skull and blood. The second acted like a linebacker, stopping the Lokhar’s forward momentum. The third began to put him down.

That’s when the tiger ignited. His bones, skin, fur, blood and one-piece vanished in the titanic blast. The concussion and fireball billowed outward.

I said a moment ago that Lokhars were supposed to hate body modifications. The same didn’t hold true for me. Now, it wasn’t that I loved what the Jelk Corporation had done to me many years ago. It had helped me survive many alien battlefields, though. Just as good, the modifications had allowed me to turn the tables on someone called Shah Claath. That gave us enslaved assault troopers a battlejumper—a spaceship—and began the road to human freedom. That’s another long story we can save for a different time.

I’d become gorilla-strong through steroid-68 injections and had become cheetah-fast by having neuron-fibers surgically implanted in my muscles. The Jelk Corporation had supplied all that at the beginning of my term of service. I also wore a bio-suit, symbiotic second skin. My sweat powered the living tissues, allowing them to act as hardened armor on the outside and enhance my already considerable strength. The second skin didn’t cover my face, and I could take the suit on and off at will. I wore a helmet with combat boots on my feet.

The tiger exploded, vanishing from existence. The blast lifted me off the decking and hurled me two hundred meters rearward against a bulkhead. The back of my helmet cracked, causing my consciousness to flutter. The cannonball strike also caused my body to deflect to the left. I bounced against another bulkhead, slammed against the decking and found myself lying in a side corridor. It’s possible that saved me from dying in the accompanying fireball.

As I lay there, I sweated intensely, which helped to energize my symbiotic skin. At the same time, I wheezed for air. My chest hurt, especially my ribs. My head spun and splotches made my vision blotchy.

At the moment, I couldn’t remember if anyone had been standing behind me. Several Earth Council representatives had been on the inspection tour with me.

A distant roar sounded. It iced my spine. Were more Lokhars inside the automated factory?

I contemplated rising to go and find out. Instead of acting on the thought, I expanded my lungs once again to pull down more air. The pain sent waves of nausea against my mind, threatening unconsciousness.

What should I do?

Another roar echoed in the distance. At least one more tiger lurked in the automated factory with me.

You gotta get up, Creed
, I told myself.
Lying here is going to get you killed
.

My mind ordered my muscles to respond. They were still taking a vacation, complaining about how much they ached.

I heard claws scraping against metal. It was a distinctive, frightening sound.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Lokhar striding down the twisted corridors. He would be hunched forward in a feral manner. No doubt, his finger-claws would flick in and out of their skin-sheaths.

If the tiger found me lying here, would he lean over and carefully slice my throat? Would he stomp on my face with his heel? Maybe he’d just explode, taking both of us into oblivion together.

The thought brought something extra to the table, a feeling I couldn’t quite call anger. I hurt too much to be mad.

Several years had passed since I’d returned from the expedition to the portal planet in hyperspace. At that time, assault troopers had allied with Orange Tamika Lokhars against the Kargs. It had been a bloodbath for all concerned. The humans making the ultimate sacrifice, and those of us who’d survived, had purchased with our efforts badly needed supplies: these automated factories, space vessels to defend the solar system and anti-toxins to cleanse the bio-terminator.

Much had changed since the expedition. Much had remained the same.

It had been several years since I fought in combat. My bio-suit might have forgotten what to do.

No. I felt it then, the old familiar surge of the symbiotic skin secreting berserker-gang into my brain. I remembered how to clamp down on the process. Too much anger made a trooper foolish.

The chemical rage in me drove away some of the throbbing pain. The foggy tendrils of unconsciousness retreated. Lying on the decking, I stirred.

A stab of agony almost snapped me out of the attempt. More bio-suit secretions added to my determination. I had to do this. I couldn’t let…

Who was behind the attack?

Don’t worry about that now. Kill the other tiger before he kills you
.

I wanted to follow the advice, but my right leg didn’t want to work. The hurt—

The symbiotic suit hardened around my broken leg. It would help me walk. At the same time, more battle chemicals seeped through my regular skin into my blood stream.

I managed to drag myself up to a seated position. With my chin clicking a lever, I attempted to turn on my helmet radio. It didn’t even buzz with static. The thing was dead.

Okay. Fine. I was on my own. I’d been in these kinds of situations plenty of times. I could still do this. My gun, where was my gun?

I glanced around. Then I saw my .44 lying on the decking about twenty meters away.

A single try to lurch to my feet caused me to sprawl forward onto my chest. Waves of renewed agony made me groan.

I must be worse off than I realized. No matter. I had my wits, right?

First licking my lips, I began a long, slow crawl toward the Magnum. My legs simply refused to respond. Luckily, my arms worked well enough. I dragged myself along the deck plates. At the same time, the scrape of claws told me the Lokhar neared my position.

My lips twisted with anger. I’d paid for these automated factories with human blood. Too many good men and women had died helping the tigers. For them to turn around now and try to screw us…

“No way,” I whispered.

As I reached the bigger corridor, I glanced down it. Ripped bulkheads, torn decking, electric smoke and blue zapping lights showed me the devastation. What had the Lokhar been packing inside his body? Had it been a mini-nuke?

A throbbing pain beat in mind. It seemed to have synchronized with my heart rate.

That didn’t matter anymore. Reaching the .44 became my universe. I dragged myself along. Another roar caused me to look up.

I saw the Lokhar. He had to be three hundred meters down the corridor. How had I heard his claws scrape from that distance? Had I imagined the sounds? By concentrating, I saw he wore a green jumpsuit and seemed muscled just like the first one.

This one reached up to his breather and tore it away. He roared with defiance.

In case you’re wondering, the tiger didn’t need the mask in order to breathe. Lokhars use the same air-mix humans do. The breather was likely a precaution against any bio-terminator in the air that might have seeped through the force-screen or lingered from construction. That he took it off told me he didn’t plan to live much longer.

In any case, the Lokhar’s roar caused the hairs to stand up on the back of my neck. It must have been a primeval thing, a reaction learned long ago by humans during prehistoric times.

The tiger began to run with his arms pumping smoothly. Then, he began to bound, using super-Lokhar strength. I had no doubts left. These Lokhars possessed bionic enhancements.

Putting my head down, I crawled.

I heard his thuds, the impacts of his feet striking the decking. They grew in volume. I heard his harsh breathing. Metal groaned in complaint at his weight and velocity.

I reached the gun, fully expecting it to have become a pile of twisted junk. No, sir, this was a piece of Earth’s finest gunsmith art. I grabbed it, sat up and gripped the Magnum with both hands.

The tiger could move, all right. He was less than eighty meters from me.

I snapped off a shot so the .44 bucked in my hands. The kick hurt my right shoulder, but I held on.

The slug hammered against his left shoulder, blowing off bits of cloth, bone and spraying blood. The Lokhar also lost his smooth symmetry, twisting. The motion caused him to land wrong on his left foot. It slid out from under him. He collapsed hard onto his chest.

That made me grin.

The tiger looked up. Across the distance, I aimed the .44 at his face. He squeezed his eyes closed, scrunching his face.

What was that about?

The Lokhar exploded, vanishing in the same kind of titanic blast as the first one.

Had he panicked, blowing himself too soon? I’d say yes. Because he lay down, the strongest concussion and fireball blew up and down instead of side-to-side as the first one had done.

Even so, the blast sent me tumbling backward. As I rolled, I tucked into a fetal ball. I also gripped the .44 tight against my chest.

It was a good thing I did.

As I lay gasping on the deck plates, with my ears ringing, I heard a third roar.

How many of these tiger-bombers are there?
What was the point of the attacks? It seemed as if they wanted to assassinate me more than destroy the automated factory. Had the Lokhar industrialists known about the hidden killers? If so, what implication did that have for the last humans in orbit around Earth?

After the destruction of ninety-nine percent of humanity, we’d fought back from extinction. With all our hearts, we tried to walk along the road of recovery. Mankind’s unified hope was to take our place beside the many aliens, forcing them to recognize us as equals.

“Commander Creed!” the tiger shouted.

As I lay on the decking, I raised my head. Far down the hall strode another tiger in a green one-piece. Attempting to lift the .44, I discovered my arm now refused to obey my will.

Sweat stung my eyeballs as I strained. My hand worked, but the arm just wasn’t going to do its task. Okay. I had to think of something else.

Once more, I raised my head. The tiger marched toward me like final doom. He didn’t seem to be in any hurry. Would he have to blow himself up or could he kill me with his hands?

Maybe I shouldn’t give him a choice.

I moved my head to the left, searching but finding nothing I could use to defend myself. Turning my head to the right, however, I saw a possibility.

BOOK: Star Viking (Extinction Wars Book 3)
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell
Hearts Under Siege by Natalie J. Damschroder
Cave Dwellers by Randall, Jonathan
Tethered 01 - Catalyst by Jennifer Snyder
Imaginary Foe by Shannon Leahy
Seduced by Two Warriors by Ravenna Tate
Taken by Edward Bloor
Nightshades by Melissa F. Olson