The Trilisk Revolution (Parker Interstellar Travels)

The Trilisk Revolution

by Michael McCloskey

Copyright 2013 Michael McCloskey

ISBN: 978-0983843092

Cover art by Howard Lyon

 

 

Special
thanks to Maarten Hofman, Howard Lyon, and Stephanie Zhang.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Jason
Yang walked into Incarnate Encounters, the seediest establishment on the
frontier world of Yaal Yaalon. About half the tables were full. Jason scanned
over the scene, afraid to stare too long. He saw groups of two and three,
mostly men. The closest group had dirty clothing and grim faces. Builders?
Miners? He could not tell. The place looked worn by his standards, but Jason
had been prepared for that. It amazed Jason that even with robot workers,
computer controllers and space suits, everyone on the frontier still managed to
get so dirty.

Being
a core worlder, he might well have been nervous in such a place, but the
presence of his two bodyguards reassured him. Flanking his right was an ex
mercenary named Jaxir Tortorella. On his left a humanoid security robot called
Flair Five shadowed him in silence. It probably gathered a lot of attention,
but Jason had been told trying to hide just would not work. The curious faces
that turned to regard him as he entered indicated that was true. At least most
of the gazes were brief. Jason thought the patrons probably did not want
trouble from some obviously rich man with hired help.

Okay,
here I am
, Jason
thought.
Everyone in the whole place has noticed. I should have stayed on
Earth.

Jason
went to the table he had reserved with his link, but a man was already sitting
there. Jason decided to roll with it. He sat down across from the man. Flair
and Jaxir took the outer seats, then Jason activated the sound curtain.

“I’m
Jason,” he said, extending his hand.

“Carter,”
the man said. They shook hands. Carter’s hand felt rough. Jason noticed a lot
of hair on Carter’s burly forearm.

“I’m
glad you made it,” Jason said. “I think others are coming.”

“The
meeting isn’t here.”

“Should
we order drinks and play it easy for a while?” Jason asked.

“It
doesn’t matter,” Carter said. “Either they’re following you are they aren’t.”

“I
see. Let’s get on with it, then,” he said.

Carter
sent Jason a pointer to a map. The route indicator showed which exit Carter
wanted to take. Apparently Jaxir and Flair got it too, since they stood up. Jason
and Carter followed.

This
is as subtle as an asteroid buster. At least we can talk someplace better
screened from surveillance than a frontier dive with cheap sound curtains.

The
noise of Incarnate Encounters faded behind him as the group walked out. They
proceeded along glistening dark streets in the small frontier town. Though the
tiny, distant system star was overhead, it was as dark as a Terran night on
Yaal Yaalon. The only reasons the surface was not frozen was the planet’s hot
core, a thin crust, and a touch of Terraforming magic performed by the Space
Force decades ago. The air was crisp and cold but the concrete under his thin
shoes felt warm.

It
was less than a kilometer to the new meeting site. They walked through two long
rows of concrete buildings and came to a machine yard. The complex corpses of
giant digging machines obscured the landscape.

Here
we are. Stay alert
, he
said to Jaxir and Flair. Jason realized it was useless to tell the robot, but
he treated Flair just like a human assistant. No sooner had he delivered the
warning than Flair Five slumped, then collapsed. Jaxir stiffened as if hit by a
stunner. He fell to one side leaving Jason and Carter the only ones standing.
Jason shifted uncomfortably.

So
much for my escort
,
Jason thought grimly.
Should have stayed on Earth, should have stayed on
Earth…

“Don’t
move and you won’t be harmed,” a voice said to his link. The owner was labeled
‘SF Viridian X’ in Jason’s link and it had a military level authority index,
which let him know that the speaker was either a hacker or a representative of
the Space Force.

Jason
froze. A chipped and rusted section of metal on the nearest digging machine flickered.
Then it resolved into a large man who strode forward, rifle in hand. His face
was covered by a combat shroud. No doubt he was reporting to friends nearby.

Jason
realized he was going to have to wipe his link. He could not give PIT away.

Dammit.

Before
he could prepare himself, a tiny sphere flew out of a pile of old machines
toward him.

Oh
no. Grenade!

Jason’s
heart skipped a beat. His eyes flinched.

The
sphere stopped before him.

I’m
still alive!

“We’ve
got this Jason, just hit the deck, if you please,” it said to his link.

“What’s
that!” yelled the soldier.

Jason
hit the deck.

From
his prone position on the warm, damp concrete he watched the soldier above him
scramble for cover. The small sphere zipped off to smash into the back of the
soldier’s calf, causing him to fall to the ground and roll.

Shots
rang out. Carter ran off.

Jason
caught sight of a robot scuttling among the wrecks nearby. Then he saw another.
The machines were insect-like, with weapons mounted on their backs. The
shooting continued, but he could not see who was doing it in the dim machine
yard.

This
is crazy. The frontier really is out of control.

His
doubts grew. The now-familiar mantra flew through his head again.
I should
have stayed on Earth.
Maybe the safety of the core worlds really was
preferable despite the oppression?

No.
This has to be done.

The
sounds of combat waned. More of the short multi-limbed robots aggregated around
him. Jason saw a woman in a Veer combat suit walk out into the open.

“Glad
you could make it, Jason. How do you like the frontier?” Telisa said.

Thank
Cthulhu, it’s finally her.

Jason
let his tension go down a notch.

“Glad
to see you, Telisa,” he said from the ground. She offered him a hand up. Jason
regained his feet. “Meeting you is like stepping into an action VR.”

Telisa
gave a single nod. “It’s all real,” she said.

He
was struck by her good looks. Then he saw a new scar over her left eye that
continued to the top of her cheek.

Why
would she let that stay there?

In
an instant she assessed what he must be thinking.

“The
scar reminds me of something I don’t want to forget,” she explained.

“Okay,
but your link could—”

“Have
it fixed and overlay my sight so only I could see it? No. It has to be real.
Some things have to be real,” she said. “I don’t care if other people see it.”

Jason
nodded. It would not have seemed like much, but a decade ago the core worlds
had gone through a major scar craze. One of the big VR stars had a scar fetish,
which took off in her billions of fans. In the space of two years the fad went
from trending, to extreme, to all-reaching, of course ensuring its quick burn
out. Scars were way out now. Core worlders took their fashion very seriously.
Jason reminded himself that Telisa was not shallow in that way. If she wore a
scar it was for real personal reasons and not for something transient.

“I
hope it won’t be so cloak and dagger for long,” Jason said, shifting the
conversation back on track.

“The
cloak and dagger is just starting. But we’ll muddle through,” she said.

“Nice
to see you again, Jason,” Siobhan said. Jason spotted her walking across the
dark yard toward him.

“And
you. Incarnate, even,” Jason said, smiling. He remembered recruiting Siobhan
well, though he had not heard anything from her since. He tilted his head up a
fraction to greet her.

She’s
an Amazon. And a beauty as well.

Jason
could not help but hear Imanol’s nickname for her in his head: Fast and
Frightening. He looked back at his bodyguards. They were not moving.

“What
about Jaxir and Flair Five?”

“Pay
Jaxir off and release him,” Telisa said. “We’ll give… Flair Five? We’ll give it
a once over and if it’s clean you can keep it.”

“Okay…
will do.”

Siobhan
rolled Jaxir onto his back and tilted his head as Jason had seen medical
responders do on Earth. Jason paid off the mercenary’s contract in a few
seconds. He had already noticed that link services were very sparse out on the
frontier. There were only a few dozen he could see at his current location. His
PV warned that the emergency response latency had fallen into the red zone; out
here it would take
minutes
to get an ambulance.

“Did
you get the array set up before you left?” asked Telisa. She asked it like
small talk, as if she knew the answer.

“Yes.
But I can’t guarantee the security of the array,” Jason said. “Obviously,” he
added, looking at the downed man before him. Siobhan secured the soldier’s
hands, indicating he still lived.

Telisa
nodded. “They can listen in all they want. We just need to be able to scan for
Trilisk signs if any of them manage to escape our grasp.”

“Ah,
so that’s what it’s for! Of course, I’ve been wondering. But… there are
Trilisks on Earth?”

“Yes.
We’re coming to take them down.”

Jason
felt a sense of awe.

Take
down Trilisks?

“The
Space Force may get in your way…”

“Yes.
But they’re controlled by the Trilisks. We’ll have to deal with them and do as
little damage as we can. There will probably be casualties. I give you my word
I don’t take that fact lightly.”

Defeat
the Space Force? Everyone I know thinks I work for an ordinary travel agency.

“Now
what?” Jason asked. His voice betrayed his nervousness.

“Time
for the real meeting. I’ll do the talking,” Telisa said.

Jason
nodded.

Good.
Very, very good. I’ll just listen and try to look tough.

“Should
I know who we’re meeting?”

“The
UED.”

Jason
froze. Telisa watched him.

I
thought we defeated them. And with good reason…

“Uhm,
you promise this is really about Trilisks?”

“Yes.
I’m not here to take over Earth. We’re here to save it.”

Jason
nodded. Working for Parker Interstellar Travels had never been anything but
great for him. Now, he wondered if he had been employed by criminals the whole
time. Or worse: aliens plotting to dominate Earth.

Telisa
stepped a bit closer. “When we get back to my ship, I give you my word I’ll
show you all the proof you need to eliminate every doubt,” she said quietly.
“You can meet an alien.”

“Thanks,”
he said nervously.

I
knew so much about what’s been going on out here. But living it myself is a bit
harder than I thought it would be. Though finally seeing Telisa up close is…
motivating. She’s as beautiful as ever, and now she has an authoritative
presence.

Telisa
led Jason through the scrap yard and to a frontier house. It was a squat,
half-buried dwelling with short, meter-wide windows. It looked like a bunker,
but Jason assumed that had more to do with the planetary conditions than any
desire for increased security. The ground would provide a lot of warmth, and
there was not much light to be had from making the windows any taller.

The
door opened ahead of them. Jason felt a moment of unease again, but the people
inside were just walking out. There was no leaping about, no weapons waving. He
exhaled silently.

Two
women and a man approached them in the dim twilight of Yaal Yaalon.

“Hello,”
one of the women said. She looked muscular. She wore some kind of black
skinsuit under an extra jacket and tall boots.

No
need for the jacket unless she’s hiding something in it. The boots, at least,
could just be something to get dirty and discard when you get back to the ship.

“Thank
you for meeting with me,” Telisa said.

“Your
data package got our attention,” the woman said.

I
guess no point in introductions just for me. Or maybe Telisa doesn’t know their
names anyway.

“Then
you know Trilisks control Earth. I intend to remove them from power.”

“Ignoring
the issue of its questionable authenticity, let me just ask: you need our help?
As you know, we tried to defeat the core worlds already. There isn’t much left,
and the Space Force is stronger than ever before, preparing to fight… oh, of
all things, aliens. Then you show up.”

“I’ve
brought a space fleet with me. It’s more than a match for Terran warships. We
need someone to step in and minimize the chaos when we chop the head off the
snake,” Telisa said.

The
UED group looked surprised. Then alarmed.

“You
do realize that everyone’s been told the aliens are coming for them? Now you’re
going to show up with an alien fleet? The populace will never believe you’re
the good guys,” said the woman.

“That’s
why we need your help.”

“I’m
not sure I know who’s the bigger evil here. That’s saying a lot, considering I
fought Earth for decades. I lost family to them. But you? Who knows who you
are? Maybe you’re the one under alien mind control.”

“We
sent you our proof.”

“You
sent us a giant package of crazy. We have no idea if it’s real.”

Telisa
raised an eyebrow. “Then get better advisors. AIs if you have to—”

“Yes,
our experts think it’s real. But they couldn’t give me the one hundred percent.
They said aliens with advanced technology could fake it all—weeks of video
feeds, endless machine logs, and, well, the artifacts you sent us… obviously aliens
could have produced those as well. So you could still be working with, for lack
of a better term, ‘the bad guys’.”

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