Two Worlds – Chapter 314

Benjamin Gold

Location: Aurum System, Gold Technologies Corporate Territory, United Commonwealth of Colonies



The transition of the carrier group back into normal space was so smooth, Ben didn’t even feel it. He was fast asleep on the bed, Jacobi tucked into his side. It was beyond spacious for a ship, especially a warship, with smart sheets so intelligent they practically read your mind. And the thread count . . . it was literally like sleeping on a piece of heaven.

None of that made the circumstances any different. It didn’t change that Ben felt like a prisoner on this boat. It didn’t change that he wasn’t able to do his job as the fleet rep to Gold Technologies, and it didn’t change the fact that something didn’t pass the smell test. It sure as shit didn’t come close to changing the face his father had left half his children behind on a planet under siege. Something was going on. He needed to find out what.

The soft lighting in the room gradually brightened, and his eyes snapped open. Jacobi continued to lay there asleep, so he careful extracted his arm from beneath her head and headed for the door. It whooshed open silently as he approached it.

“Curtis,” Ben stated neutrally, as his father’s personal security guard stood waiting on the opposite side.

“Mr. Gold would like to see you on the bridge,” replied the former SEAL as he stood aside and extended an arm.

<Let’s see what the asshole has to say for himself.> Ben simmered at the thought of his father, so there was no telling what he’d do when he was face to face with the man. The betrayal he felt was all too real.

Displays on the bulkheads showed their current destination at several light minutes from Aurum, but with the system saturated with next-gen buoys, they had instantaneous comms with the entire system.

The Gold Family had discovered, invested, and built Aurum as the capital of their corporate empire over the last two centuries. It had started before Thomas Gold became the CEO, but he was the man who’d made the dream a reality. Aurum itself was one of the few better-than-Earth worlds humanity had come across. Gravity was a few percentage points less than Earth, which made it easier on the bodies of humans, but not enough that it could lead to health or developmental problems. The planet also had a much more favorable tilt, and its position from the star at the center of the system was perfect. There were slight variations, so the planet technically had seasons, but everything was comfortable year-round. In addition to the corporate citizens, Aurum also saw an abundance of wealthy retirees that immigrated with their riches. It also helped that planetary laws were geared toward rewarding hard-working individuals, not to mention the paradigm-shifting technology that was being created and implemented there before anywhere else. Everything from consumer electronics to revolutionized healthcare was available on the Aurum market before anyone else. Protection was also not an issue. The Commonwealth kept a force in place, for which they paid a pretty penny to rent space at the local docks and shipyards, and then there was the corporate security fleet.

Beyond the planet Aurum itself, the system held two other inhabitable worlds. Neither was as well-suited as Aurum, but terraforming had made them just as livable as most colony worlds, and better than the rotting cesspool that Earth had become. Oro and Gull sat before and after Aurum in the system orbit, and each had hundreds of millions of citizens participating in the system economy. As a first-rate system, Aurum had everything, including a metal-rich asteroid belt beyond Gull that was still producing plentiful yields after two hundred years of mining. Those metals helped propel the systems infrastructure, Gull helped refine them, Aurum helped use them, and Oro had a large agricultural sector. The system had been perfectly planned and established to be everything the Gold Family wanted in a home system.

Ben quickly reviewed information in his head as they marched onto the bridge. It had been a long time since he’d been on Aurum; before the arrival of Hegemony tech. He was sure things had changed a little.

As expected, the bridge was alive with activity, and at the center of the whirlwind stood his father. The screens surrounded him again, but a hand jutted out from them and summoned him like a loyal hound. Ben’s eyes scanned the area as he moved, and they popped a little out of his skull with what he was seeing.

Portalling locations were highlighted across the system, and unending traffic seemed to be streaming out of them. As he watched, a pair of escort destroyers popped out of a point on the other side of Oro with a multi-million-ton cargo vessel between them. That thing could be carrying anything from food to medicine, but whatever it was, it probably ran into the nine figures in terms of profit margins.

Civilian and merchant marine traffic was unlike anything he’d ever seen outside Sol or New Washington, and so was military traffic. Ben saw not one, not two, but eight carrier groups in orbit or patrolling the system. Coupled with the onesies and twosomes assigned to merchant protection, there were close to three hundred warships in system, and that didn’t count the three squadrons of Commonwealth battleships and their escorts that were docked in the shipyard around one of Aurum’s two moons.

“Benjamin,” Thomas waved him through the shield of holos and into the digital sanctum. Some of the floating images showed economic data, several showed the individual system marketplaces. You could tell who didn’t know Sol was under siege because their numbers were still in the green, and Thomas was taking brutal advantage of that to pull, relocate, or more wisely, invest.

All the other screens had people on them. Many were in suits, and were likely major department heads or large shareholders, but several were in uniforms; either corporate security or Commonwealth CMUs.

Ben gave the RADM in Commonwealth CMUs a long look before pulling his gaze back to his father. The older Gold gripped Ben’s shoulder like an old friend and pushed him to the center of the circle.

“Tell them the situation in Sol. As the fleet’s representative, everyone deserved to hear it from you.” The words seemed innocent enough, but nothing was innocent with Thomas Gold.

Ben still had to do his duty, and he detailed the invasion force, the annihilation of Second Fleet, the destruction of Mars, the refugee fleet’s attempted evacuation, and the siege of humanity’s homeworld. He didn’t embellish, because that was the only thing he imagined his father wanted, but there was no need to expand the truth. The situation had been dire when they left, and had likely only gotten worse.

“Thank you, Lieutenant Commander,” with Ben’s piece done, Thomas gently nudged him out of the way. “There you have it,” the man looked genuinely sad as he faced the audience. “I hope that confirmed the situation to your satisfaction Rear Admiral.”

<He’s the real focus of this briefing,> Ben surmised, and tried to figure out his father’s bigger play.

“We’re at a crossroads my friend. Earth itself is under invasion. A combined force of the Commonwealth, Blockies, and Euros was not able to stem the tide. Four fleets,” Thomas held up his fingers and waved them in front of the screens, “could not stop the onslaught. Almost two thousand ships, many capital ships, could not hold back a token force of the enemy.”

Ben wouldn’t call the two hundred plus hulking vessels the enemy put into the field a token force, but the disparity in numbers was frightening.

“We need to do better, no, we have to do better if we want to survive. I am doing my part,” Thomas put his hand on his heart. “My shipyards are turning out new vessels daily. I’ve improved our tactics, our technology, and our trade relations with the Hegemony. We’re even working to upgrade the upgrades with our own touch of humanity. We are doing better than everyone else,” he paused dramatically, “this is the time.”

The statement had a wide array of reactions. Many nodded and even looked eager. Some looked skeptical, including the RADM, and one or two outright shook their heads.

“To do this we need to be united in common cause and principle,” Thomas continued. “Together we will rise, but divided, we will fall. Without unity, our carcasses will be picked apart by the sharks. We must be strong.”

He must have sent something to the audience, because they all looked away from their screens to review. “Our lawyers need to review this,” was the gist of all their replies.

“You have forty-eight hours,” Thomas replied. “I look forward to seeing you and starting our mutually beneficial future together.”

Screens began to wink off until only the RADM remained. Ben didn’t know him, or anything about him. He looked competent, but competence could be sculpted onto a man’s face, and reinforced with a little confidence and charisma. That didn’t mean he knew his asshole from a hole in the ground.

“Is this really it?” there was a tinge of fear in the RADM’s voice.

“It looks like it,” Thomas sighed dramatically. “I wouldn’t do this if I saw another way, but you’ve seen the sensor records from all my ships. You heard the words of your own fleet rep. Things are as bad as you think, and its likely they’re even worse than that now.”

The RADM rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know what they’ll do to me . . .”

“Nothing,” Thomas answered immediately with passion. “You will be praised for your foresight and revered by who truly matters: your men; who saw you put their lives and well-being first and foremost.”

That seemed to soothe the RADM’s nerves, and elevated Ben’s opinion of him. He could get behind a man who valued the lives and well-being of his subordinates.

“When do you want me to implement order six-six-seven?” the RADM asked. Ben scanned his memory but knew nothing of such an order.

“What is your readiness status?” Thomas inquired.

“We’re at eighty-three percent, and should be one hundred in the next nine days,” the RADM answered.

“Everyone has two days to review the course of action before they’ll arrive on planet. Take the time to push as far ahead as possible. We’ll make the decision then.”

“Yes,” the RADM’s looked distracted now as he mentally went through a checklist of what he needed to do to get to one hundred percent readiness. “I’ll talk to you in two days.” The picture cut out, leaving Ben and his father alone in a bubble of data.

“Thank you, Benjamin. That is all,” screens vanished to form a door with Curtis waiting on the other side. The bodyguard escorted Ben back to the stateroom where his mother and Jacobi were now wide awake.

“What happened?” they both jumped on him when the door snapped shut.

“Honestly,” he was still trying to collect his thoughts. “I have no idea.”

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Two Worlds – Chapter 313

Eve Berg

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Bethesda Naval Hospital, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“We’ve got another man down,” came over the net.

<Damnit,> Eve cursed as she surveyed the scene in front of her.

Her MOUNT stood as a metal sentry in front of the main entrance to the hospital. She kept her eyes peeled for the enemy’s return, even though hours had passed since she killed several BAMFs in the last skirmish. Since then, there hadn’t been a peep from the enemy. Not that something wasn’t happening.

Her AI had alerted her to the rising air temperature, and it quickly became apparent the enemy had changed tactics. The shield surrounding the hospital grounds now made since. Since the ETs couldn’t come in and dig them out, they’d burn them out instead.

“Get him inside,” the battalion commander coughed from the HQ.

Almost nothing was left of the hospital’s defenses. The soldiers were holding their positions for as long as possible, but they were dropping like flies. As the temperature climbed, the first thing the officer did was order the squad-level shields to go air-tight. This kept the heat out, but it also kept out all the other air. The troops could run on internal air supplies, but the average grunts didn’t have a large supply. They weren’t issued anything extra because they were fighting on a planet, not out in the void. No one thought of this scenario.

<Why should they? I don’t think this has ever happened before.>

The battalion had been good for a while, but now those air supplies were running out, and people were starting to collapse. Medics rushed past her with bulky suits jerry-rigged from materials inside the hospital. Even then, Eve saw their steps falter as they rushed toward the downed soldier’s position.

{One hundred degrees Celsius, Warrant Officer Berg,} her AI chimed in.

They were now at the temperature that water boiled. She looked out at a fountain in the middle of the formerly-manicured lawn. The water inside it was bubbling as it boiled. She was suddenly grateful that she couldn’t smell the area around her. If the fountain water was boiling, the blood and flesh of the rotting dead wasn’t far behind.

The pair of medics returned with a man lying unmoving on a litter between them. His arm flopped over the side as they hurried past, his rifle laying diagonally across his chest. Eve shook her head as the doors squeezed closed behind her. That soldier wasn’t going to be the last.

“We need a plan,” the LCDR seemed to be thinking the same thing. Her battalion had lost nearly thirty percent of its people in the fighting, but that still left seven hundred men and women to command.

The hospital complex was huge, more than capable of housing the soldiers, but housing wasn’t the issue. Keeping them cool was. The building wasn’t designed to be air-tight. Certain sections were contained, but you couldn’t fit what remained of the battalion there. The environmental systems were already working overdrive to keep it bearable, and sooner or later, they’d burn out or short-circuit. When that happened, it was only a matter of time.

{One hundred and one degrees Celsius, Warrant Officer Berg,} her AI informed.

“I’ll scout the perimeter of the shield, find its source and destroy it. Even a little reprieve before they can reestablish it will disperse this heat,” Eve stated.

“We’ll need to do better than that. We’ll need to break out of here. Once that shield goes down, radio in, and I’ll get us moving. I’ve got my S2 crunching the numbers and if we head northwest, away from the metropolis, its less likely we’ll run into more ETs,” the LCDR responded.

“Sounds like a plan, ma’am,” Eve nodded her head inside her environmentally controlled womb. She could be on a lava planet and not know the difference. It wasn’t her ass on the line here, it was the frontline battalion’s.

“Do you want some of our HI assets?” the LCDR asked.

“No,” Eve shot down the idea. “You’ll need them on the breakout if you run into any hostiles.”

In the battalion’s limited experience, it took two, sometimes three, HI to take down a BAMF, which was about all the battalion had left at the moment. If Eve couldn’t handle whatever was powering and protecting this bubble shield, she doubted a couple HI could change that equation.

“Roger that, Valkyrie. Drop routers along your axis of advance and keep in touch. Happy hunting,” the LCDR cut their connection, and Eve took a few massive steps away from the door.

Her foot made a squishing sound as she stepped on a few of the bodies in the courtyard as she took a least-time approach to the shield’s edge. She’d find it, and then circle the perimeter until she found the source.

She walked for nearly a kilometer until her sensors indicated the energy shimmer of the shield. A quick check of the readings showed it was a strong, maybe even stronger, than anything a PDC could put out. Since there wasn’t massive infrastructure and power sources buried in the ground supporting this ad-hoc shield, it was another example of how the enemy was better equipped than humanity.

She turned north and started to walk the perimeter. Unsure of what she’d find, but sure of what she’d need to do to get those seven hundred troops to freedom.




Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies


<I wish those bastards hadn’t gotten vaporized,> Coop grumbled as he continued to trek north.

The grunts riding on him like remoras on a shark had been a pain in the ass; sitting on his sensors, making it difficult to get his weapons on target, and everything else that came with attacking or defending against the enemy. Now, they were dead, cut down by those big, ugly motherfuckers, and he was all alone. He found himself missing them every time he tried to check his three o’clock. He was used to getting nothing but ass, and each clear reading was a reminder of his failure.

His trek north had been anything but uneventful. He’d come across two more detachments of enemy troops, neither larger than two dozen. He was starting to think the enemy didn’t move in large contingents like the Commonwealth did, which led to embarrassment that so few of the ETs were able to take down so many humans. He’d come across plenty of humans. Too bad none of them had been alive. In fact, some had been nearly melted.

He’d seen it in all the small towns between the metropolises. His sensors indicated the air temperature was above normal here, which helped him develop his theory. This wasn’t an invasion; it was an extermination. With the orbitals under their control, and air domination as far as he could tell, on top of complete disruption of human communications, the aliens were systematically wiping town after town off the map. They’d air assault in with a small force to protect their big shield generators, set up the shields, BBQ the humans in their homes, and then move on to the next town.

Coop hoped he was only coming up against the mop-up crews, which meant the main effort had long passed them. He wasn’t sure he could take more than a few of the big guys. The little ones were easy enough. Still, when one of them bit it, the big ones went ape shit. That was how he’d nearly been skewered like a shish kabob in his womb.

<Let’s not do that again.> It was better to avoid them all together if possible. He consulted his MOUNT’s built-in maps and was pretty sure he was getting close to Bethesda.

Not much of the original Washington D.C. remained from the Last Terran War. What did was classified as a historic site, and the rest became a national park. That meant there was a large chunk of open land right next to one of the largest metropolises on the eastern seaboard. That was exactly where Coop didn’t want to be. If anywhere was a landing zone for the enemy, it was that. He circumvented it to the west, keeping as low a profile as possible, to come at the hospital from the northwest. It was the farthest point from the possible LZ and most likely the safest.

He stopped behind some buildings for cover to survey the scene. Sure as shit stank, there was one of the ET’s shield generators. This time they’d been smarter than the last time he’d seen it. This time the generator was ensconced in a building. It must have been a government building at some point because it looked well reinforced. The ETs had just dropped the shield generator right down through the roof, so it was vulnerable from above, but he counted two of the big bastards walking patrol up there.

<This one’s going to be tricky,> judging by his distance from the hospital, this generator and its brothers were definitely bringing the area to a boil.

A blip on his radar caught his attention, and he went prone on the pavement, his graviton cannon pointed down the road. He waited patiently for the sensor ghosts he’d registered to appear again. Sure enough, a big fucker inched its way around a building on the other side of the shield. Only different was, this one was made of metal.

He saw the other MOUNT level its cannon at him when it registered his presence, so he sent a friendly ping on the tight-beam and putting his hands up in a non-threatening manner.

“Co . . .” the connection was bad with the shield’s interference between them. “. . . ‘s that . . . ‘u?”

A friendly ping came back with data on it. It was easier to get text through than audio. {Coop, is that you? You beautiful big cocked bastard.} He could practically read the relief and excitement across his vision.

{The one and only,} he sent back.

{My big strong man to the rescue. Your timing is perfect.}

Coop hadn’t been one hundred percent sure who the other MOUNT was. Even though they’d mentioned his dick, that only narrowed it down to two people. One played with it frequently, while the other referenced it nearly as frequently in an insulting manner. Now, he was sure it was Eve instead of Camilla. That revelation was bittersweet. He was happy Eve was still alive and kicking. Life would suck without her, but he still had no idea what had happened to his plucky squadron buddy.

{You seen what’s making this shield?} she asked, her recon being affected by the shield between her and the generator.

{It’s about eight hundred meters from us, dropped in the center of some government building with a few thick walls between us and it. I also counted at least two big ones patrolling the roof. If we stay low, the buildings should hide us.}

{BAMFs,} Eve informed. {That’s what the battalion I was rolling with was calling them. Big Ass Motherfuckers.}

Coop couldn’t help but laugh. That was spot on. {You recon from your side, I’ll recon from mine. We’ll meet back here in thirty, and devise a plan to shut these assholes down,} Coop suggested.

{Sounds good. I’ve got seven hundred troops that need to exfil before they turn into human soup.} Eve started to move away in the direction of the generator.

One MOUNT might not be enough to get into the hardened target with multiple BAMFs on guard, but two sure as shit would.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 312

Eve Berg

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Bethesda Naval Hospital, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“We need to shrink our perimeter and reconsolidate,” the battalion commander yelled over the net.

Eve heard the sizzle of sustained beamer fire in the back. Whatever had gotten through their lines was pressing toward the HQ. During the siege of Bethesda, or at least that was what the troops were calling it, the soldiers of the battalion had already developed slang for their attackers. Beamers were the white laser carried by the enemy heavy troopers. They were capable of five seconds of sustained fire, and could take a squad level shield down in that amount of time. Their recharge time was unknown, and the best way to counter them was overwhelming force on a back azimuth to the source.

Like any good weapon, the enemy’s laser cannons were dual purposed, and the Commonwealth grunts called the alternative use: a blaster. It fired lower-powered bolts of white energy from the weapon. Still, the “lower-powered” energy was more than capable of punching through a PVT in their scales. The squad-level shields were able to handle much more blaster fire, but the enemy didn’t need the recharge time on the lower setting, so the defenders weren’t gaining much of an advantage. It was also more difficult to target the heavies on blaster fire with their stealth tech. Without the sustained beam they couldn’t pin down their location long enough to bring heavy weapons to bear before the enemy moved. Even though the beamers were far more dangerous, the defenders sometimes preferred that scenario because they had a chance of hitting back.

Then there were the aliens themselves. The little ones were called infiltrators by the officers, but the grunts called them roaches. They were small, quick, and impossible to find in their stealth tech. You just wanted to stomp on them, but they were hard to kill. The big ones, everyone called BAMFs: big ass motherfuckers. There was no other name of the three-meter monstrosities that were a mix between a tank and ballerina. The movement they were capable of would tear a human’s muscles to shreds. They were as perfect a killing machine as Eve had ever come across, and she’d seen a lot of weird things during her service.

At the moment, she needed to get to the HQ to stop the BAMFs from taking out the battalion’s command and control. Right now, that was the only thing holding the force together. She jumped out from behind the cover of a building, and the squad shields between her and the enemy lit up as multiple beamers opened fire. Fortunately, the BN had started deploying shields in depth, to give their personnel time to move around in the interior of the lines without being sniped. Eve had several seconds where she was able to move to more cover in the hospital complex before the beams broke through.

She slid behind a maintenance building, startling a squad of mortarmen, whose tubes were red hot from the constant firing they’d been doing. All the SGT in charge did was point back toward the HQ. Apparently, they were trying to support the counterattack being launched. Eve nodded, and kept her head low as she moved forward. The sounds of heavy fighting were up ahead, which made her shuffle faster.

The first thing she came across was a roach. She almost missed it, but her sensors picked it up when it knocked over a couple food pallets piled near the HQ. She immediately leveled her graviton cannon and blew it to pieces. She couldn’t risk it getting away and wreaking havoc behind their lines; even if the kill had consequences. From nearby a guttural roar split the air.

<Here we go again,> Eve drew her sword and shield and charged toward the sound. If she could get there quick enough, she might end this before it started.

For whatever reason, every time they killed a roach a BAMF went crazy. They didn’t know why, but the BAMFs went into rampage mode, and went full berserker on the Commonwealth soldiers. The BAMFs had no regard for their own well-being or safety, they just wanted to kill everything in their sights. Eve would rather she be in their sights than the vulnerable grunts.

She hurtled into an opening and caught a BAMF leaping through the air at an entrenched position. The soldiers and heavy weapons were pouring fire on full auto into the BAMF. Its shield had already been whittled down, and chunks of flesh, blood, and bone were being stripped from the creature for every centimeter it progressed. The thing didn’t care, its single-minded rage was focused on the troops.

Eve charged forward as the BAMF reached the fighting position and tore into the soldiers. Swiping left and right with a short blade, it cut grunts to shreds. The heavy machine gun continued to pour fire into its gut until the BAMF grabbed the gunner, held it over its head, and tore him in two. Its roar of rage was cut short as Eve did the same to it.

The only good thing she could say about the BAMFs in berserker mode was that they were single-minded and had tunnel vision. It didn’t even see her coming in its blood-rage.

“Get on that gun, soldier,” she used the external speaker to motivate the only survivor: a girl who still had acne on her face. Eve could only tell that because the girl had removed her helmet to vomit all over the ground. “If you don’t get on that gun, more people will die. Get synched with the net, find your fields of fire, and lay into the bastard. For your buddies,” Eve pointed to the dismembered remains surrounding the young PVT.

The woman gave a nod, gagged, and vomited a second time before replacing her helmet and moving to the big gun. Eve left her to it as she moved forward, and couldn’t help but smile when the bark of the gun sounded behind her. <Good girl.>

She continued to circle the building until she came to the entrance courtyard that led to the HQ. Beamer fire lit up the area like the Fourth of July. Multiple BAMFs were inside the perimeter; dipping, diving, ducking, dodging, and pirouetting around the defender’s return fire. A few lay dead, but smoking corpses of Commonwealth soldiers littered the area. Multiple heavy weapons emplacements were silent, and it looked like they’d been pushed back nearly to the entrance of the building. Gunfire from the roof continued to rain down on the enemy, but if the odds didn’t change fast, the ETs would be in the hospital wreaking havoc in minutes.

<Time to work,> Eve opened up with her graviton cannon and charged into the fray.

She hit a BAMF a few times before it noticed she was there, and was able to cripple it by blowing off its leg. She left the grunts to deal with the rest and moved onto the nearest enemy with sword and shield, while her swatters sprayed a third.

Like every engagement, it was hard to kill the quick-moving BAMFs with her close-quarters armaments.

{Do you have it yet?} she asked her AI as she parried a strike from the enemy’s short sword and tried to smash it in the face with her shield. The enemy rolled to the side, avoiding her strike, and slashed at her exposed leg. Her shield sparked but held.

{Fifteen more seconds,} the AI replied calmly, way too calmly for the battle it was engaged in.

After her first fight with a BAMF, she had her AI go back and analyze how the alien moved. She needed to be prepared for the next fight, and having some idea of how the enemy fought was the best thing she could do at the moment. Her AI was building a database on the ETs movement patterns, and while every combatant fought a little differently, if they were able to review some footage, plug it into an algorithm, the AI would be able to give her a heads up of what the BAMF might do before it did it.

Eve hadn’t seen much use in the AI until it helped her rack up some BAMF kills. Now, she couldn’t imagine living without it

{Data accumulated, analyzing . . . analyzing . . . analyzing . . .} and not a moment too soon.

The alien rolled around her strike again and hit the exact same place on her shielding leg. This time the shield buckled, and the blade cut into her armored calf. The armor held, but icons started to blink red and warn her things could get a lot worse. In the meantime, she couldn’t let the BAMF land another hit there. She lowered her shield to more easily protect the spot, but that opened up more of her body.

Fortunately, she’d done this before, and knew a plethora of moves the BAMF would make to take advantage of the new weakness. The AI calculated the probabilities in a nano-second and gave her a heads up. The BAMF continued its roll, sprang up, twisted in the air in a move that would snap a human spine, and struck. Eve waited until the last second to turn, ensuring the enemy had over-extended itself in exchange for a killing blow.

In mid-air, with nothing to do but squirm, Eve was able to rotate using all the mechanical muscular structure of her mount. She brought her shield up from its guarded position, and smashed it into the BAMFs gut. She didn’t know how the thing worked internally, but suffering blunt force trauma to that degree wasn’t healthy for anything biological, which was observed when the thing screamed out in pain. It didn’t end its lunge in a combat roll as much as flop like a fish out of water onto the ground. It coughed, seized, and bled, which gave Eve all the time in the world to drive her sword into its back.

{Swatter ammo on gun one down to ten percent. Ammo on gun two down to eight percent,} her AI informed, and Eve ordered it to ceasefire. She’d bought herself time by wasting ammo, but she couldn’t do that anymore. That would make things harder in future bouts.

She removed her sword from the enemy’s back and turned to face her remaining opponents . . . only to find no one there. Troops were cheering behind her, and chanting her name.

“Iceberg . . . Iceberg . . . Iceberg!” It wasn’t her codename, but it had a nice ring to it.

Her scanners swept the area with everything they had, just to make sure this wasn’t a feint of some kind, but she picked up nothing. “Raider, this is Valkyrie, courtyard seems to be clear for now.”

“Roger that, Valkyrie, all clears seem to be coming from all across our lines. Seems like the enemy is pulling out.” The LCDR sent back.

That was wishful thinking. The enemy couldn’t just bypass hundreds of soldiers on their march to wherever. The risk of getting fucked in the ass was too great. <No, their consolidating for a serious push to overrun us,> Eve thought. They’d been playing with the battalion for too long, only sending a dozen or so soldiers at a time to wreak havoc. Eve understood the LCDR’s wishful thinking, because there was no way they’d survive a serious push again even a hundred ETs, not unless a couple squadrons of MOUNTs showed up to reinforce the position.

Eve hadn’t heard from anyone in twelve hours. Presumably, they were dealing with the same thing as her at the sites they were assigned to protect. <Now the million dollar question; what’s next?> That was up for the LCDR to decide, but EVE hoped she made a decision quickly. Their position was becoming untenable.

“Ma’am, I’m getting something over here,” Ricco, the comms specialist announced. “I’m getting some weird interference that wasn’t there a second ago.”

{Get me a full scan,} Eve ordered the AI. Sure enough, it pinged back with results moments later.

Eve raised her graviton cannon and pointed it straight up. She fired off a blast that soared up into the sky until connecting with something solid and unyielding. An energy field sparked and sizzled, but her blast didn’t get through.

“Looks like we know what they were planning to do,” she sent the LCDR. “They just locked the door and threw away the key.”

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Two Worlds – Chapter 311

Benjamin Gold

Location: Portalling

<Something’s wrong,> Ben marched down the long corridors of King Midas toward the flag bridge. He knew the time it would take for the refugee fleet to portal to Alpha Centauri; or at least the portion of the fleet that could utilize the new transportation tech.

He had no idea how the dozens of ships who needed to get to the Launcher were faring. They might all be space dust for all he knew. He pushed their fate to the back of his mind. He couldn’t help them, but he could find out what the hell was going on.

The hair on the back of his neck tingled as he shouldered past two security guards flanking the armored hatch to the flag bridge. As always, its space was controlled chaos. Communication was flowing back and forth, not only from the Midas’s captain, but the other captains in the fleet. In the center of the madness should be the Commodore, but George Zahn was standing off to the side in the tactical department. On the command dais, his hands flying across screens suspended around him, was Ben’s father, Thomas Gold.

Whatever was happening, his father was completely engrossed in it, and before he got into it with his dad in front of everyone, Ben wanted to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. He marched around the periphery of the bridge and approached the CDRE. Judging by the look on Zahn’s face, he wasn’t happy to be where he was.

“What’s going on?” Ben kept his voice down. “Why aren’t we at Alpha Centauri?”

“Hell if I know,” Zahn spit back, with no intention of keeping his emotions in check. “Your old man marched right onto my flag bridge and relieved me. He didn’t ask to take over, or say to keep close so I could advise him, he just kicked me right out of my command chair. Kid, your dad is rich and smart, but he can be a giant asshole.”

People in the tactical department started edging away as Zahn continued his rant. No one wanted to be in eye shot if Mr. Gold returned fire.

Ben just sighed at the whole situation and headed for the command dais. “Dad,” he announced when he stood just outside the floating holo-screens.

Nothing happened. “Dad!” he repeated a bit louder, and ran a hand through something that looked important.

“What?” Thomas Gold yelled as the screen disappeared in a tidal wave of pixels.

Ben might have backed down at one point, but that point was a long time ago. “What the hell is going on?” he countered, stepping fully onto the platform and towering over his smaller father. “We’re supposed to be in Alpha Centauri dropping off these refugees before heading back to Earth.”

“We’re not going back to Earth,” Thomas scoffed, and waved his hand through the air like he was clearing a bad smell.


“Did I stutter?” Thomas stepped into Ben’s personal space, but Ben didn’t budge. “Earth is gone, lost. You saw what those aliens did to Second Fleet. First Fleet was battered and bleeding. The Motherworld Fleet got blasted into a skeleton fleet, and the Euros were fleeing with their tails between their legs. There is no fight to be had there, only failure and defeat.”

Ben just stood there open-mouthed.

“I am doing what is best for my family, this ship, this carrier group, and this company. We’re heading for Aurum to consolidate our forces.” He dismissed Ben with a wave of his hand, but Ben didn’t move.

“You’re abandoning Earth.”

“I know a bad deal when I see one,” Thomas’s eyes drilled into Ben with sharp disappointment.

“You just invoked family a second ago. Dillion and Lillian are still there. You’re not trying to save your family; you’re leaving them to die.” Ben had never liked Dillion, but he shouldn’t be left at the mercy of some rampaging alien.

Thomas spun back around with unbridled rage in his eyes. For a second, Ben thought he was going to hit him, but the smaller titan of industry restrained himself. You could hear a pin drop on the normally hectic bridge.

“I’m making a calculated decision to save as many people as possible. As many of my people as possible,” his response was calculated and politician. He had enough situational awareness to remember who was around him. “The communications around Sol System are cut off. Nothing is coming in and nothing is going out. For all we know, the entire Commonwealth could be under attack. I’ve spent the last year and a half pouring money into research, development, and infrastructure. Our security fleet is bigger than ever before because I knew something like this was going to happen. The first day those Twigs showed up in our space, I knew we were going to get hit by something. Their Hegemony is a thinly veiled construct to give reassurance to the masses. The only thing that matters to them is strength. Right now, the Commonwealth is a wounded animal. Blood is in the water, and the sharks are circling.”

There was a zealotry in his father’s eyes that Ben hadn’t seen in a long time. His father was used to playing and winning the games of intergalactic trade, commerce, and politics. Finally, he was playing something new, and from the glint in his eye, the old man was enjoying it. More than that, it seemed the aliens weren’t the only ones to sense blood in the water.

“This carrier group will return and protect Aurum,” he projected his voice so everyone could hear. “We will consolidate with other groups, and reinforce our key systems. There is safety in numbers. Everyone here knows our ships were built from the keel up with new technology. Our infrastructure has been updated with the latest in tech gained from the Hegemony,” he scanned the bridge, looking for any hesitation or dissatisfaction. “Our merchant marine is doing the same. Until we know this invasion has passed, we will hold what is ours.”

“We’re all citizens of the Commonwealth. Earth is what’s ours. Mars was ours,” Ben pleaded, but his response fell on deaf ears.

“And we saved what we could,” his father expertly pivoted around Ben’s point. “These refugees, who just lost everything, will be given food, shelter and work on our planets. Our citizens, the employees of Gold Technologies will not fall like Earth. For too long their arrogance has spread like a cancer, rotting away at the core of the Commonwealth. There are no PHA’s on my planets. Everyone prospers. There is work to be done as long as people have the fortitude and drive to do it, and with what’s happening, that will only increase.”

<I can’t believe this,> Ben turned to scan the gathered officers and chiefs, and saw many heads nodding in agreement.

“You are a man of principal, Benjamin,” Ben turned back as his father addressed him. “You’ve served in the Commonwealth Fleet faithfully; despite everything their entrenched bureaucracy did to stifle your career. You prevented thousands of needless deaths in New Lancashire, and your deeds in the retaking of Harper’s Junction are known by too few.” He stepped closer to place a hand on his shoulder. “You’re here as a representative of that fleet, one you so faithfully served, but you must realize I pulled you off that battleship out of love. A father’s love for his son, because he doesn’t want his own flesh and blood’s life thrown casually away on a battle that can’t be won.”

Ben stared at his father in confusion, but he didn’t see love in the old man’s eyes, he saw calculation.

“Please return to your quarters. I don’t want you to be forced to choose between family and country. Go back to the loving arms of your beautiful fiancé. This will all be over soon.” He dismissed Ben by turning his back on him. Ben didn’t even notice the two security goons at his side before they prodded him in the back to get him moving.

His father was talking to the assembled spacers now, and as Ben was escorted from the bridge, he heard the speech piping from the 1MC, and likely was heard by the entire carrier group. With each corridor he passed it sounded more and more like a political stump speech.

When he finally entered his quarters, he saw a confused Jacobi sitting next to his scowling mother. “What the hell is going on?” Jacobi asked, as she embraced him.

“Your father is making his move,” Miranda stated flatly, as she opened a bottle of expensive liquor. “He sees opportunity and is seizing it with both hands.”

“At the expense of earth and the billions still trapped there,” Ben muttered, as he accepted a glass and drained it.

They’d go through a few more bottles before the day was over.

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