Authors: Richard Sanders
THE PHOENIX REQUIEM
By Richard L. Sanders
Copyright March 15, 2015
The Finale of The Phoenix Conspiracy Series
Version 1.0, 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 Seven 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
THE PHOENIX REQUIEM
This is where the price is paid. This is where the blood flows. This is the end, the apex, the resolution.
The final Reckoning!
Death. Destruction. Debris. Raidan had seen his share of such things. Hell, he’d been responsible for his share of such things. But
? This was something new. Something different. Something worse…
“It appears to have been a battle, sir,” said Mr. Mason. “And a rather one-sided one, by the looks of it.”
“This was no battle, Mr. Mason,” said Raidan, folding his arms. “This was…
butchery on a colossal scale.” He looked at his second in command as he spoke, then gazed past him out the windows, as the
yawed hard to port in order to avoid collision with the ruined husk of yet another human battleship.
“Scan has a match,” reported Mr. Ivanov. “It’s the ISS
,” said Raidan, catching a glimpse of the vast debris cloud surrounding the ruined husk as the
’s spotlights illuminated it. “Now it’s just wreckage.”
That could have been us had we gotten here faster
, he thought, as he stared at it.
Maybe it should have been us…
Whoever the officers were that had crewed the
, they’d deserved a better fate than this. Sure there was honor in dying in the field, but to be slaughtered to a man and with nothing to show for it; it seemed a tragic waste.
Brave defenders of the Empire, I will honor you
, Raidan thought, as the remains of the ISS
slipped out of view.
“Add it to the list,” said Raidan, “Then give me the count.”
“That makes sixty-three that we’ve been able to identify, sir,” said Mr. Ivanov. “But, given the amount of debris in this system, most of it of human origin, I estimate the loss of starships to be much, much higher.”
“As do I,” said Raidan with dark tenor.
“It’s a bone-yard out here,” said Mr. Demir.
“That it is,” Raidan agreed.
“I think it’s safe to say that the Dread Fleet left behind no survivors,” said Mr. Demir.
“We will continue to comb the system searching for survivors until I command otherwise,” said Raidan. He had gotten here too late to help, but if there remained something he could do—even saving just one life—he would scour the system for that opportunity. Although, in his own private thoughts, he knew Mr. Demir was right. The scene before them was not one of tactical conflict, rather it seemed more like a scourging.
Raidan’s eyes flicked to the 3D display, which showed the planet, Centuria V, in vivid and grotesque detail. Where once had been a thriving world, covered in glittering cities, emerald forests, and sapphire oceans, was now a scorched, bombed-out wasteland. Entirely unrecognizable.
Even if no one had survived the space battle, where the Imperial fleet had clearly failed in its defense efforts, surely someone on the planet must still be alive, Raidan had thought. But Mr. Ivanov had insisted that it was not possible. So thorough and devastating had been the Dread Fleet’s assault on the planet, their countless ships showering hell from orbit, that the very landscape and atmospheric conditions of Centuria V had been so drastically altered that no life could survive. “Everyone down there is either dead or dying,” Ivanov had told him. “All eight billion of them, and anyone we send down there to try and help will only risk meeting the same fate, even in climate gear.”
Raidan had seen a planet bombed before, usually to force it into submission, or to eliminate static defenses on the world’s surface, but never had he seen a planetary assault of this nature. A callous, almost ritualistic cleansing away of all things ordered, all things built, and above all—all things living.
“Goddamn barbarians,” Raidan muttered under his breath, and he averted his gaze from the 3D display. He felt a surge of guilt pour through him, knowing that he had failed to arrive in time to help with the defense, and now countless Imperial citizens had been brutally massacred; but, by the looks of the debris in the system, Raidan doubted that even the mighty
’s battlegroup could have made much difference. For every twenty human ships they could confirm destroyed, they could only find the remains of one Polarian ship. This
had been over before it began. And now the rest of the Imperial fleet had disappeared—no doubt recalled by the Queen—and as for the Dread Fleet, Raidan shuddered to think what its next target might be. There were any of a dozen systems that could easily be reached from here, including Capital System itself.
“Move us deeper into the wreckage,” said Raidan. “Stay true and only divert course to avoid—”
He was interrupted by Mr. Gates. “Sir,” he said with urgency. “Incoming message. It’s a distress call.”
it,” said Raidan. “Someone
alive. Pinpoint the source.”
“The distress call is not originating from within this system,” said Mr. Gates.
“Then where?” asked Raidan.
“The signal is coming in with highest priority, repeating on all channels and frequencies…Sir, it’s Capital World.”
Raidan felt a sinking feeling. He glanced momentarily back at the 3D display, then imagined the unparalleled metropolis that was Capital World being reduced to ash and rubble, just like Centuria V. And, of course, it helped nothing that Raidan himself had personally eliminated most of Capital World’s defenses…not that any would have been a match for the Dread Fleet.
“Shall I display the message?” asked Mr. Gates.
He didn’t have to. Raidan already knew what it would say. But he gave the order all the same. “Display it.”
Queen Kalila appeared on the viewing screens; she was sitting on a throne in what looked to be the Keep of the Old Quarter, probably because the Imperial Palace had been destroyed. She looked as well-composed and commanding as ever, but Raidan detected a hint of terror shining in her otherwise unwavering eyes as she spoke.
“I am Queen Kalila Akira, the monarch of the Empire and this is a general order to all starships, to all citizens, and an urgent request to anyone else within the sound of my voice. Listen carefully. Our very Empire is at stake. We are at war with an alien force that has already destroyed two Imperial star systems, and which dealt significant losses to the remaining Imperial Fleet. Even as I speak, that alien force—the so-called
,” she said the name with venom. “Is making slow but steady progress toward Capital System itself. If Capital System falls, our seat of government will fall, and the Empire will swiftly collapse. The Dread Fleet
be stopped here and allowed to go no further! I order, implore, ask, and beg anyone who is listening to immediately proceed to Capital System and join us in our defense. For together we may stand, but apart we shall surely fall. Make haste, please. For the Empire.”
The message terminated.
“Well, you heard our sovereign,” said Raidan. “Set course for Capital System at once, maximum possible jump depth.”
“Aye, sir,” Mr. Watson acknowledged.
“Captain, if I may,” said Commander Mason. “Is it wise for us to go to Capital System?”
“Of course it isn’t wise,” snapped Raidan. “It’s probably suicide. But I’d rather die with a sword in my fist defending this, our Empire—our
—until my last breath escapes me, rather than watch it all burn. And I’ll be damned if any of you have plans otherwise!”
“I didn’t mean that, sir,” said Commander Mason. “Just that…we’re wanted criminals. Worse, actually. We’ve been declared enemies of the state. If we appear at Capital System, then any civically minded Imperial must seek to do us harm if they are able. Will we not be jumping into a fight, or a slaughter—should we choose not to fight back?”
Raidan considered it. “Hold the course,” he said. “And make the jump as quickly as possible. Also, order the entire battlegroup to do the same.” He knew that Commander Mason had a point, and he honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when they arrived. It could very well be that Capital World—which had recently been attacked by the
and its battlegroup—might perceive their presence as an additional threat. They might be offering their throats to the butcher’s knife by returning to Capital System. Then again, to do nothing would mean Centuria V all over again—except on a far greater scale. The stakes were too damned high, and there were too many lives on the line; indeed, the very future of humanity was hanging in the balance, and Raidan would be damned if he let the Dread Fleet, or anyone else, tear down and destroy all that he held most dear.
“Aye, sir,” Mr. Gates and Commander Mason acknowledged, clearly trusting him. Or else having done the same calculus that he had.
We have to help and they would be fools not to accept our help
, thought Raidan.
And if they think we have returned to pick a fight, then it will be my job to convince them otherwise…somehow
Ultimately, he placed his faith in the wisdom of their clever young queen, who surely would realize that, in the hour of greatest need, Raidan and his cohorts could be relied upon as much needed allies, not more enemies. Now he just had to hope that, however fast the Dread Fleet moved, the
and her battlegroup moved faster.
“Sir, incoming message from the
,” said Mr. Gates.
“On speakers,” said Raidan. Then, once he heard the crackle of the line connecting, he said, “Make it quick. We’re about to jump.”
“So all of you humans are going to answer the queen’s call and try to defend your homeworld?” the voice on the other end belonged to Zarao, leader of the lycanthropes.
“It is not technically the homeworld of all of us, but it is our home in a sense, and therefore we must defend it. You understand that, having just reclaimed your own home,” said Raidan.
“Clear to jump in ten seconds,” Mr. Watson mouthed to Raidan.
Raidan nodded. He needed to end this communication quickly. “But don’t worry; my deal with Tristan is satisfied, no debts remain outstanding on either end. You are all free to return to Remus System, or wherever else you wish to go. I will not ask you to come and die with us.”
“I respect that you do not ask,” said Zarao. “But to abandon a friend such as you in such a manner, knowing you seek only to defend your home,” he made a guttural sound, clearly expressing disdain. “I cannot abide it. It would be a Strigoian thing to do. And we are not Strigoi! I, and all that are mine, we will join in battle with you against your foes. Against this
Raidan felt a wave of gratitude, but he couldn’t help but wonder if Zarao knew exactly what he was signing up for. “You realize if you stand with us, you’ll likely fall beside us,” said Raidan. “We are not expected to survive.”
“If we fall, then we fall with honor upon the bed of glory. But if we win the day, then we do so as blood allies.”
“And you’re sure that is what you and your people want?” asked Raidan.
“If you will have us. Then we will stand beside you, as brothers.”
“In that case, I’m glad to have you. Jump for Capital System and we’ll group up there.”
“And then what?” asked Zarao.
“And then…we take our chances. Together.”
“We will share our glory, Asari Raidan, and we shall feast upon the blood of our enemies. Tristan was wise to choose you for our ally.”
“And I was lucky to find him and the rest of you. But now it is time we jump,” said Raidan, knowing he was clear to jump and not another second should be wasted.
“Indeed. See you on the other side, my brother,” said Zarao. “May we reap a slaughter unlike anything the galaxy has yet seen as we sow death upon all who dare stand against us.”
“My sentiments exactly,” said Raidan. He then ordered the channel closed.
“All ships report ready to jump on your command,” said Mr. Gates.
Raidan gave the 3D display one final glance, taking in the image of the savaged Centuria V once more and made a silent promise to himself that he would never allow such a thing to happen to Capital World. No matter what it cost him. No matter who he had to kill. No matter what. He would defend his Empire.