Two Worlds – Chapter 326

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Shift left!” Coop bellowed as his MOUNT surged forward under constant beamer fire. “No! Your other fucking left!” but it was already too late.

An LT had maneuvered the leading elements of his company into the enemy’s path. Half a squad went down to the concentrated energy beams, which punched through the soldiers’ scales like a fat guy chewing through a birthday cake. Coop unleashed one of his micro-missiles to cover the company’s retreat. The resulting explosion didn’t breach the enemy’s shields, but it obscured their vision enough for the company to disengage. By that time, his AI had finished sending the fire mission to the mountain’s big guns, and kinetic shells started raining down on the area. Enemy shields died in radiant explosions of light as they were swallowed by the explosions. There was a savage delight in seeing the enemy die violently, but that didn’t change their overall strategic picture.

The eastern front had several battalion’s worth of troops dug in and guarding the most likely avenues of approach. Their lines extended for a couple kilometers around the entrance, and calling them defensive liens was at times generous. Coop was running all over the place trying to plug the holes when the enemy broke through, while also playing the communications command and control center on top of calling for fire missions when he had the free time. All on top of actually fighting his MOUNT. It was the single most exhilarating and exhausting thing he had ever done in his entire life.

The artillery strike had the enemy back on their heels in this sector, so he left the grunts and the shaken LT to dig back into their positions. The MOUNT took giant strides, eating up meters of space as he studied the communications streaming over the net. He’d been fighting without them for so long, their sudden reemergence was startling. Before, it had just been the pounding of his own heart and his AI’s interruptions; now, everyone seemed to be screaming in his ear of the command channel reserved for the battalion commanders. Ten minutes into the fight and it was obvious each commander thought they were the most important and needed the help of the only MOUNT the second they called for it.

Coop had gotten to the point of ignoring them, and trusting the AI’s analytics to tell him where he really needed to be. The silicon brain was taking in all the comms traffic, filtering it, and giving Coop a better idea of what was truly going on.

“Roach spotted infiltrating sector three. Squad heavy weapons took it down, and are targeting berserking BAMF,” the AI relayed, even adopting the slang for the ETs everyone was using. “Stand by if assistance is needed.”

He heard the firefight, and the combined weight of all the BNs HI troopers assisting to take the three-meter fucker down. Without a MOUNT there, the only thing that worked was pure weight of fire. “Target down,” the AI chimed, and gave Coop a second to breath.

He didn’t have a second. An alert chimed in his head, and cold dread shot up his spine. “Incoming!” he broadcasted on all channels. Enemy plasma artillery was arching over the horizon toward them.

His AI mapped the incoming trajectories and found the safest location. It was in the open, but with his shields, he should survive any splash the impacts created. On the down side, it left him open to harassing fire from the BAMFs.

“And there is only one way to deal with that.” As plasma rained down around him, he loaded up a shell into his next-gen accelerator and fired it at an outcropping the enemy was using for cover to get closer to the Commonwealth’s lines.

He didn’t know for sure if that was their approach. There was so much EW jamming going on that he could only rely on what he and his AI could see with their naked eyes. What he did know was that he’d used that same outcropping as cover to harass the enemy, and judging by where the blasts were coming from, that was the only place he could think of that the enemy was hiding.

The shell ignited the air around it as it made a beeline for the outcropping and turned the bit of rocky cover into explosive shrapnel. Coop didn’t care if the enemy was shielded. There was no way they were getting back up from that. In response, a beamer took him in the opposite side, as a BAMF finally took advantage of his momentary distraction. He returned fire and sprayed rounds back along the reverse azimuth. The beamer kept coming, as Coop’s round smacked harmlessly into the creature’s shield; until he had to dive behind cover to avoid it piercing his shield. Like always, the enemy was targeting the mismatched portion of duro-steel welded over his womb. As it turned out, even an alien could find the weak spot.

He launched another micro-missile, which intersected the beam midway to the target. The resulting combination created a worthy explosion, that Coop used to retreat farther back and loop around to a different section of the battlefield. With the artillery barrage ended, the Commonwealth’s mountain guns were opening up on any BAMFs who thought it was a good time to advance, and made them pay for their hubris in blood.

Status reports were flying over the command net, but the AI didn’t tag anything worthy of his notice. For now, the line was holding . . . but for how long. A quick check of his ordinance showed him how much he’d been forced to expand already, and he wasn’t sure the line would be able to hold for the time it took him to go in for a refit.

“Hey, Eve, how are things on your side of the mountain?” he relayed, not expecting much of an answer.




Eve Berg

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies


“If anyone so much as farts I swear to God I’m going to stick my size hundred boot us your ass,” Eve relayed over the quiet comms.

She had a feed from a camera at the top of the mountain to the chaos on the eastern front. It seemed the enemy was attempting to draw the Commonwealth’s attention and forces in that direction as they snuck in the larger force from the west. Whoever the western commander was, it was obvious they hadn’t encountered legitimate resistance before. It was also the first time she’d ever seen the aliens marching in any type of formation. It was formidable.

There were only a few thousand of them in sight, but they were BAMFs who looked fresh and ready to eat the flesh of their conquests. On their shoulders rode the Roaches, almost lovingly attached to their larger mates, any probably saying whatever passed for goodbyes in their alien language and customs.

There were also vehicles. They were bulky and utilitarian, and made up the rear of the formation like a baggage train. They didn’t concern Eve much, but the big fucking thing bringing up the rear did. At first, she’d thought it was a hill, but then it moved. She zoomed in and grimaced, feeding all the intel to the tactical operations center (TOC) back in the bunker. The TOC didn’t know what to think of it either. The moving mountain was easily thirty meters tall, and bristled like a jagged Himalayan peak; except what made it jagged were weapons emplacements.

<It has to be some sort of mobile command center, artillery hybrid,> she determined as she watching it ponderously advance on its anti-gravs. It was a few kilometers behind the main body, but that was too far for it to help with what she had planned. Unfortunately, it also assured she’d lose part of the forces marginally under her command.

“We need to pull back,” the LCDR who was in command of the soldiers on the ground, hissed over the net.

“If you move, you die, sir,” she shut him down.

The battalion in defending this sector had enough warning and data on the enemy to set a trap.

The roughly thousand soldiers had dug in to create a massive L-shaped ambush. They’d buried mines, emplaced shield generators to create fortified positions, and were currently covered in cammo-nets and supposed to be radio silent. The problem was that now that the enemy’s heavy fire power could range on the entrenched battalion, it was going to be difficult to get them out alive.

She was working on it, she just needed the jumpy LCDR to shut the hell up. She was in an even more precarious position than the LCDR. He was on the short arm of the L, sitting just off to the side of the road the enemy was using, and had a straight line back to the bunker. It was a few kilometers to safety, so he’d never make it. Eve was at the pivot point in the L where she could exert the most command and control over the giant formation, and have eyes on target to call in the big guns. Unfortunately, that was about all she could do: have the mountain guns hammer the approaching behemoth while her own troops sprang the ambush and then retreated in good order. They’d lose people, but it depended on how effective the ambush was to determine how friendlies would die.

“Hey, Eve, how are things on your side of the mountain?” Coop’s message arrived at the worst possible time. The vanguard of the enemy formation was just crossing into the kill zone.

She held her breath, fearful that the enemy would detect the transmission before they could spring their trap. After a long ten-count, the enemy was still marching determinedly forward, and Eve exhaled. <Just a few more minutes.>

She didn’t dare cut the net connecting her with the ongoing battle on the east ride of the mountain, but she prayed Coop took the hint and didn’t continue to try and contact her.

Of course . . . “Do you read me?” he asked several minutes later.

<Shut the fuck up!> she mentally roared at him.

The enemy continued to march; hundreds, maybe even a thousand in the kill zone, until they suddenly stopped. “Ma’am, we’re getting weird readings on our sensors,” a communication specialist attached to her at the pivot in the L.

She didn’t wait. She instinctually knew she only had milliseconds to act. She overrode the battalion commander’s ability to detonate the mines imbedded in the ground and initiated the ambush herself. The LCDR might come back and ream her ass later, but at least he’d be alive to do the ass reaming.

She saw the ground literally balloon upward before the force the explosion smashed through the alien’s feet. They couldn’t know for sure the configuration of the alien’s shields, and she’d had to rely on guess work in an integral part of her plan. She never liked that, but didn’t have much of a choice. She chose right. She expected that the enemy would see the ground as safe and angle their shields outward to deflect incoming fire. Whether the enemy didn’t have mines in their arsenal, or if the commander was just overconfident; she didn’t care. All she cared about was seeing BAMFs and roaches tossed into the air like god had decided to bitch slap the earth because she was being a naughty bitch.

There was a two second delay as the battalion was caught by surprise before they opened up with everything they had on the stunned enemy. HI brought down artillery, targeting the areas in the formation where the shields were down. Thermobaric artillery rounds smashed into these openings and turned the road, and everything with a quarter kilometer into a living hell. The soldiers in the battalion fired into previously programmed target reference points. Everyone had their field of fire, and with a wall of dirt mixing with fuel-air explosives, the grunts in the trench line couldn’t see shit. They just unloaded where they were told to in a mad minute that put 1mm, 3mm rounds, grenades, and everything else that went boom boom in a grunt’s arsenal.

It was complete and total, uncontrollable madness, and Eve couldn’t help but smile. “I’m great, Coop. Now shut up and let me fight.”


Two Worlds – Chapter 325

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“What do you think?” the crew chief stood next to the six-meter MOUNT like a proud parent.

Coop just stood there gaping. “Well . . .”

“I know. No thanks necessary, sir,” the chief patted him on the shoulder and walked away.

Coop didn’t even watch the man go. His eyes were on his MOUNT. <What did he do to you?> he felt his soul break a little inside him as he looked at the once-beautiful dealer of death and destruction.

Now, the MOUNT looked like some patchworked monstrosity. Duro-steel had been grafted over gaping wounds, including the one that made Coop a peg-legged pirate for the time being. Eve’s MOUNT stood in its cradle next to his looking practically brand new compared to his. She still had her fair share of alloy transplants, but nothing compared to Coop’s; especially the large discolored piece directly over the womb.

An involuntary shiver worked its way up Coop’s spine. He’d gotten everyone he could to safety, and his AI had even walked into the bunker under its own power; but he’d come very close to never seeing his unborn child or Eve ever again. All of that made him reconsider his life choices for about thirty seconds, and then the base’s obsolete intercom system barked to life.

“Warrant Officers Berg and Cooper to the command center. Warrant Officers . . .” they were already moving.

The command center was always busy, but now it made the previous weeks look like an anerobic swim class of seniors at the rec center. “We’ve got comms!” the LCDR looked like she’d taken some uppers from when they’d seen her last.

“With who?” Eve asked as they strode to the holo-display lighting up the center of the room with the strategic situation. One look at it and anyone could tell it wasn’t good.

Scouts and sensors had picked up a sizable force moving at the from the west, while a smaller, but still respectable force, pinned them from the east. Coop and Eve had been battling that eastern force to a standstill for weeks, and now they’d called for backup.

“Everyone!” the LCDR’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, despite their position caught between a rock and a hard place and about to be ground to dust.

“Everyone?” Coop was looking for a little more data.

“The cavalry arrived with some goodies up their sleeves,” the LCDR never stopped moving. Coop looked at the previously sparsely manned communications section that was now full to bursting. “Fleet’s got a patch to our comms issue. Anything that was previously affected by the malware is useless, but we’ve got some old nodes from storage up and running. They’re not as good at the modern stuff, but we’ve got contact with the inbound fleet and forces all over the planet. We’re coordinating a global response. They’re going to landing more troops to retake this planet.”

<Yep, definitely on some uppers,> Coop saw the LCDR’s pupils were so wide you’d think her eyes were black.

“Fan-fucking-tastic,” Coop exhaled. At the very least, all this meant proper replacements for his MOUNT. It was borderline combat ineffective as it was, and had been for weeks.

“ETA?” Eve asked the more logical follow-up.

“We’re still looking at twenty-four hours, maybe more. The Blockies and Euros have fleets in system too, and they’re rallying now to make the push towards Earth,” the holo-display shifted until they saw the solar system and the fucking armada advancing toward Earth. They were routing the signals through some of the older satellites that hadn’t been in use when the enemy attacked, so the feed was glitchy at best.

<That’s the beauty of Earth, we’ve got centuries of obsolete redundancy sitting around,> Coop fought back a grin that mankind’s laziness, and inability to pick up their trash, was its savior at the moment.

“That’s tomorrow’s problem,” the LCDR continued, her enthusiasm only diminishing a tad. “We’ve got issues today.” The display flipped back to the tactical situation in the eastern half of North America. “We need to hold until the fleet arrives.”

All Coop could do was grimace. They’d been fighting the eastern force to a standstill, and the western force looked to be a third again their size. They couldn’t win in the east and conduct another breakout. There were too many civilians and too much equipment that the enemy would just scorch in its path. <Including my kid.> They also couldn’t fight in the west, or split their forces to defend against both. They were truly fucked with the cavalry right on the doorstep.

“We need a defense in depth,” Eve and Coop both stated simultaneously. “Send everyone and everything as deep as they can go. We’ll hold outside and fall back into the bunkers. We’ll let those ET fucks in with us. Set up booby traps, ambushes, kill zones; anything and everything to slow them down. Every second we can buy is a second more to land another division of troops to save our asses,” Coop finished.

Eve just nodded. The LCDR had already come to the conclusion. “I’ve already ordered evacuations to the lowest levels. Our engineers are rigging traps, and I’m redeploying our troops to man our fixed defenses as well as possible ambush sites. The only question left is where are you two going to be.

“The tip of the spear,” Eve grinned. “Like we always are.”

“I’m going to need one of you on each front, coordinating and routing communication on top of kicking ass. We have comms, but not enough to go around. Most of the comms in our armor is already fucked, but you guys should be able to talk; even with a mountain between you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” it would add another distraction in combat, but it couldn’t be helped. For all intents and purposes, it looked like Coop and Eve would effectively be in command of ground forces on their two fronts.

Coop was sure there would be some brass back in the command center, or even company and maybe battalion commanders out in the field, but no one was going to have the real-time data Coop and Eve did.

<I should ask for a pay raise,> he chuckled as Eve started going into detail on deployment patterns for the western front. She’d always been gung-ho, and it looked like she was going to take on the bigger threat. <Fine.> While the two women talked, Coop went over the terrain he’d been fighting in over the last few weeks. He was pretty sure he could pull a rabbit or two out of his bag of tricks.




Sonya Berg

Location: CWS Agincourt, Sol System, United Commonwealth of Colonies


Agincourt shuddered from the impact. “Hull breech on levels sixteen and seventeen between sections D and G. Damage control is on it. Shield reforming,” the chief in charge of updating ADM Ward on the status of his flagship yelled over the chaos on the flag bridge.

The ADM barely paid any attention as he orchestrated the battle like a maestro. The man was used to combat, but Sonya sure as shit wasn’t, and she felt her guts do a flip at the knowledge they’d just had a hole punched through them. Despite all the upgrades, even a ship as large as Aggie was still vulnerable to the enemy’s incredible energy weapons.

“There . . . there . . . there!” Ward was yelling, jabbing at a point in his holo-tank like a mad-man. “Kill that fucker!”

Kill that fucker they did. Sonya saw what the enemy was doing. For the past several hours they’d been maneuvering token forces to slow the Commonwealth’s advance on Earth. Whether it was to pull their people off the planet, or coordinate a stronger defense, she wasn’t sure. What she did know was they were paying for time with lives and tonnage. The eighth and final enemy ship was cut in two as the combined weight of Strike Force Two’s firepower ripped into the portion of the ship’s shield that had been overloaded. Spin and acceleration did the rest, torqueing the ship and flinging the two pieces farther apart into the void. Something went critical on one section and it exploded like a small sun being born. The second half just continued to drift aimlessly away from the advancing fleet’s course.

They’d killed twenty-four of the enemy ships as they approached Earth, but had lost fifty in the process. Some were completely gone; like the half of the enemy ship that had gone up like a supernova; but others were just combat ineffective. They’d established a casualty collection point back near the portalling location. Most of the resupply ships and troop transports were remaining there until it was safe to move forward, but in the meantime, they were looking over the damaged ships to see if they were salvageable. Many had fallen to the incredible beam weapon the enemies had mounted at the front of their ships. It made her wonder if it wasn’t worth investing in a similar weapons system in the future.

Strike Force Two was down three battleships and a third its escort force after the few engagements they’d been in, and they weren’t even at the forefront of the advance. “Status!” Ward’s command voice echoed across the bridge.

“We’re looking at one more pair of bogies,” the tactical OIC announced. “They’re coming in on heading two-six-three, and should be intercepted by Strike Groups Ten and Twelve well away from the main body of the fleet. After that, it looks like smooth sailing to the main concentration of the enemy force in orbit between Earth and Luna.”

Sonya nodded along with Ward. They were getting some data from the satellites in Earth’s orbit, but the enemies EW was making those number unreliable. They’d shift from one second to the next showing no enemy force, and then over a thousand enemy ships. Since they had a general idea how many ships they were facing, they were only using the incoming transmissions to generalize the location of the enemy force. They’d wait until the AIs on the better-equipped warships got closer to take a crack at cutting through the EW. At this point, she was confident there were under two hundred enemy ships in their path to retaking Earth. That didn’t seem like a lot, but after seeing First and Second fleets get pounded, she knew they were going to need every ship to finish this fight.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 324

Sonya Berg

Location: CWS Agincourt, Alpha Centauri, United Commonwealth of Colonies

<Holy shit,> Sonya kept her face stoic as she looked at the data feeding into the holo-tank at the center of ADM Ward’s flag bridge.

As the soon-to-be former chief of naval intelligence, and an ADM with no real combat experience, she really had no point in the upcoming operation. Still, there was no way in hell she was going to be left behind. This was about to be the largest operation in human history, and the only joint operation of any magnitude between the Commonwealth and Blockies. This was once in a lifetime.

<Maybe, maybe not,> her intellectual side reared its head.

The aliens that hit Earth came out of nowhere. No one expected them, and everyone thought humanity was on pretty good terms with the Hegemony. The thorn in everyone’s side was the Star Empire of Windsor. The small polity was a problem, but they couldn’t match the Commonwealth’s economic might, and once the big players caught back up to the tech imbalance, it was over for the would-be empire. Harper’s Junction had been the first nail in that coffin, and there would have been more to follow if not for this.

Part of her wondered if the Windsor’s had orchestrated this. It was worth looking into, but she doubted it. They didn’t have enough pull with the Hegemony to get them to do what they wanted. The more and more she thought about it, humanity wasn’t making the Hegemony dance to their tunes; despite the generous loan terms and rapid influx of technology. It was the opposite.

<You won’t be looking into anything,> she reminded herself as she cracked her neck and continued to go over the data. She would be lucky to still be in the navy after this was over. <You’re assuming you’ll survive.> She chuckled, and Ward gave her a sideways look.

Agincourt was as intimidating as ever. The flagship of Third Fleet was an imposing sight; but now she had the teeth to back her up: upgraded powerplants and generators, layered defensive shields, energy weapons, and missiles with more bang for their buck. She was an imposing figure, but Sonya knew she’d lose handily in a one-on-one fight against the enemy.

“That’s why we won’t fight one-on-one,” the High Admiral had explained in the endless operational meetings between the admirals gathered in system. There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, and everyone wanted to put in their two cents.

In the end, Ward and Gilmore formulated the battle plan around the data they had from Second Fleet’s defeat and First Fleet’s pounding. With the massive forces at their disposal now, and the addition of four more fleets when they arrived in Sol, they should be able to deploy any number of strategies depending on the situation.

Looking at the might of eighteen hundred Commonwealth ships flying in formation toward the designated portalling point would bring tears to a lesser woman’s eyes. Having dealt with the logistics, she knew the number of battleships, the tonnage, and the number of human lives was literally something a person couldn’t fully comprehend. It was hard to imagine this wasn’t enough to take back their home. The Blockies were brining another eight or nine hundred ships to the party, and the stingy Euro’s even had a fleet and a hundred screening units inbound.

Then there were the troops. Millions upon millions of troops were onboard transport lagging behind the main body of navy ships. As they said, they were cocked, locked, and ready to rock. They would portal in behind the fleet and chill in the rear until the battle was over. Then their fight began.

“All hands, battlestations,” Ward announced. “Let’s go kick these ET fuckers in their small alien balls and teach them not to fuck with humanity.” The gusto received cheers, and Sonya was sure they were echoed throughout the fleet.

While tied into Agincourt’s internal comms, she was also part of Strike Force Two’s Command net, and Fleet Command net. Gilmore was asking for all the Strike Forces to report in. Each strike force was akin to a carrier group, minus the carrier group. They were roughly a dozen battleships and escort vessels that could engage the enemy in pocket-sized elements. If needed, they could mass into a large battle wall by combining with other strike groups. That was how the Commonwealth forces decided to start the operation, but circumstances would dictate how they finished it.

They didn’t know how the Blockies were going to position their forces, but the Euro’s were going to operate by standard fleet practices. They wouldn’t change anything about their tactics until six committees had looked it over, written a dozen reports, which were then reviewed and commented by their citizens, and only put into practice eighteen months from now. They had the least skin in the game, and they weren’t going to leave their planets as unprotected as the other powers. The PM was working out some sort of financial and trade deal the Euros would have to adhere to because everyone else was shouldering the weight, but Sonya didn’t care about that. As they grew closer to the portalling point all she could think about was the sudden pressure in her bladder. All rah-rah-rah aside. They were going to lose a lot of people today.

“Lieutenant Kim,” Ward’s voice cut across the flag bridge, targeting a junior member of his staff. “where are we in the order of march?”

“We are going to be the third strike group to cross the line of departure, sir,” the young man answered after only a second of hesitation.

“And why is that, Admiral Berg?” he turned on her, his eyes making clear even her exalted rank, technically senior to him in the Commonwealth’s organizational structure, wasn’t getting her out of the line of fire.

“Command and control,” she replied with a sigh of exasperation. “High Admiral Gilmore will be transitioning in the later half of the strike groups, so we need someone to take command and control of the first strike groups in case they make contact.” She tried to act bored with his little game to try and catch her unaware, but she could give as good as she took. “And who better than the mighty Admiral Ward with his tactical prowess to lead the charge into the lion’s maw,” she laid the sarcasm on thick, saw several of the crew smile, and an unlucky few actually chortled in amusement.

Ward just grinned, and gave her a nod. He liked the repartee. It kept him on his toes.

“Strike Group Four is away,” the communication’s officer announced. “Strike Group Seven will deploy in thirty seconds . . . Strike Group Seven away. We’re in the queue. Thirty second countdown.” The clock appeared in the holo-tank, and they all waited patiently for the portal to rip a hole in space-time for them to jump between that starts.

“Portalling in five . . . four . . . three . . .” Sonya ignored the helmsman’s countdown as she watched the giant slit of golden light appear before them. They accelerated into it, and were swallowed whole.

“Stay alert, everyone,” Ward ordered as the ship rocketed through the extra-dimensional highway. “We don’t know what we’re going to face when we emerge.”

They’d find out soon. The trip was only slightly over four light years; a hop and a skip when it came to protalling. She knew time moved differently when you were stressed, so it wasn’t a big surprise when the announcement went out that they were about to transition back into normal space.

<Let’s see if the enemy cracked our codes and knows where all our transition sites are,> she thought. If so, it was going to be a bumpy ride.

“Transitioning,” the words were followed by the return of the black of normal space, dotted with familiar stars, and an influx of data.

“Missile launch!” the OIC from the tactical department screamed. Sonya hoped he had time to get a fresh uniform after the engagement.

The data populated on the holo-tank and she saw several waves of missiles flying away from the two strike groups that proceeded them. They were marshalling into a battle wall, the twenty-plus battleships lining up to protect the smaller escort vessels who weren’t powerful enough to take the hits.

“Four bogeys, designated Bravo One through Four,” tactical yelled out as Agincourt linked in with the fleets fire control.

“MALCON warning!” what followed next was expected. They had all the data on what had happened before, and their cyber people had been working on counters for the last eight weeks. Electronic firewalls went up, completely new and revolutionary for the human race.

They were a hybrid of Hegemony contractors input on what the enemy had used to take down their systems during the invasion, and human ingenuity. It hadn’t helped that the contractors had laughed in their own alien way at how the enemy had taken down the human fleets. Apparently, it wasn’t that complicated of a virus; something children used to attack each other’s system in their equivalent of secondary school. Human software was just so obsolete, it was a joke.

<Not this time, motherfuckers,> the thought was premature, but not wrong.

“Firewalls holding. STRATNET and TACCOM still functioning,” the communication’s officer was still professional. Sonya practically melted into her chair as Strike Group Two fully integrated with the other strike groups and launched their birds.

New doctrine called for a constant wave of missiles to be fired. The objective was the degrade the enemy’s shields to the point they were softened up for the knife fighting engagement with energy weapon’s the enemy seemed to prefer. The four bogeys were only a million kilometers from the emerging strike forces.

<Maybe they’re a little full of themselves. That, or they didn’t expect this large of a counter attack,> even though the four ships were huge. There were nearly forty battleships lining up against them, and just as their strike group moved out of the emergence point, another strike group appeared. The numbers were only going to grow. <We’ll see if they run.>

They didn’t. Whoever these aliens were, they had big fat balls. They accelerated at the ridiculous rate for something so large; like four Swords of Damocles headed for their heads.

Missiles continued to smash into their shields, some even getting through as the Commonwealth’s weight of fire increased. Bit of hull, frozen gases, and what looked like some alien bodies began to leave a wake behind the approaching force as it continued to race toward the strike groups.

Then they were all in energy range. It was a holocaust of energy weapons fire that left spots in the eyes of anyone who looked directly at the sensor feeds. It was sustained for about twenty seconds before everything died back down.

“Report!” Ward ordered on the Fleet command net. The replies of the admirals and rear admirals in charge of the other strike forces trickled in over the next minute.

She found it mildly amusing it took longer to report the status of their formations than the entire engagement that had killed the enemy ships . . . and they were dead. Their blackened, broken husks would continue on their course passed the Commonwealth forces. They’d miss by tens of thousands of kilometers, but that still made a shiver go up her spine.

“Keep an eye on them, Group Four. Make sure they aren’t playing possum,” Ward had the same idea she did, but the enemy wasn’t playing possum. Those fuckers were dead, but they had made the fleet work for it.

“We lost Vicksburg,” the tactical officer replied. “Gettysburg and Antietam took some damaged and will have to fall back to the rear to complete some repairs before being combat ready. We also lost two cruisers and a destroyer that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The losses muted the celebration on the bridge of winning the skirmish.

In terms of tonnage and lives the Commonwealth had come out way ahead, but they’d only faced four of the enemy. What would happen when they faced hundreds.

<We come at them with thousands,> Sonya’s mental fortitude reared its head as the holo-tank pulled in more information from any remaining assets in the solar system. <This time will be different.> So far, that looked to be true. She only just hoped they’d made it in time.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 323

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies


Coop reluctantly had to leave his drug-induced happy happy fun land. He’d been unconscious for some time, but he knew he’d shifted from that state to dreaming at some point. You didn’t dream about being balls deep in your girlfriend when you were truly unconscious.

“Wha . . .” was his first word as the stupor he was in finally faded to the point he could open his eyes.

“Take it easy warrant officer,” a nurse materialized at his side and placed her hand on his chest to push him back down. He easily overpowered her and continued until he was in a full sitting position. “Um . . . doctor!” she called out, as Coop swung his legs over the side of the bed and got to his feet.

<What the fuck!> he lost traction and toppled onto his ass. That was when he first took a look down at his feet . . . or more accurately, his foot.

“Damnit, not again,” he groaned and smashed the railing of the bed with a closed fist, leaving a big dent in the hard plastic.

He wiggled the toes on his left foot. They responded to his brain’s commands. That was good, but the metallic gleam of the peg where his right foot should be was unsettling. This wasn’t the first time he’d lost a bit of himself in service to the Commonwealth, but he didn’t normally wake up looking like a pirate.

“Warrant Officer Cooper,” a stern-faced woman walked in with a white lab coat. “Please return to your bed.”

“Where’s my foot?” he asked, not moving.

“Please return to your bed and I will tell you where your foot is,” she kept her no-nonsense tone.

Coop growled a few choice words under his breath and climbed back into a sitting position at the edge of the bed. He couldn’t give her exactly what he knew she wanted, so this was a good compromise. She gave him a hard look but exhaled. For the first time, he noticed how tired she looked. Her eyes were sunken, and a bun of graying hair, that normally would by tighter than a yoga instructor’s ass, had several stray strands falling into her face.

“Sorry,” he grumbled after taking a good look at her. “I . . .” he stopped talking. The doc was probably busy and didn’t want to know about his history of lost body parts.

“Your foot is in a locker down the hall,” she continued, ignoring his gesture of goodwill. “Something hot and powerful sliced it clean off. From what I know about the walking metal suit of death you wear, that was one hell of an attack you lived through.”

He just shrugged. He was glad he was alive, but with the epic clusterfuck they were in, it was more important to know the path forward from here. “How long until I’m good to go?”

“Well . . .” the doc hesitated.

“You’re good to go now,” the base CMDR walked into the room, looking even more tired than the doc. “We made some necessary decisions to make you combat ready as soon as possible.”

“I’m guessing this is the necessary decision,” he pointed at the metal peg sticking out of his leg.

“It is not optimal,” the doc’s words were measured with the CMDR there. “I don’t have the data to ensure your new appendage will work with the neural link your armor establishes.”

“Then let’s go check,” the CMDR countered with a hard glare.

Coop knew what was going on. It had happened more than once in his career. The doc was all about physical and mental wellness. She would recommend a course of treatment that ensured he could make a full recovery as safely as possible. The problem was that safe wasn’t in the cards right now. The CMDR wanted him back in action against medical advice. If he had to guess, the doc was a civilian from one of the hospitals that had been evacuated to the mountain bunker complex, and was having trouble adjusting. She clearly looked pissed enough when the CMDR suggested he go jump in armor right now.

“I’m sure everything works the way it’s supposed to, but I should probably let the drugs get flushed from my system before I try and synch. That’ll be the biggest issue I think,” he tried to appease both women, and as usual, they both turned on him with glares.

<Fuck it,> he leaned back in his bed and closed his eyes. The CMDR might outrank him, but as one of two MOUNT operators, she couldn’t really do anything to him. The doc wouldn’t withhold treatment, and if he wanted to, he could physically overpower any attempt to stop him. It didn’t matter if he didn’t have a foot, he still had two fists.

“Hey gimpy,” the voice cut through him with a cyclone of emotions. His eyes snapped open and he found Eve standing there against the doorway.

“You look like shit,” he replied with a smile. She was still the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, but she looked ragged.

“Well, I had to cover your lazy ass. Sleeping on the job, Coop, not professional. Not professional at all.” Her words had no bite, but there was still concern on her face as her eyes darted to his peg.

“Like my new accessory,” he propped it up so she could get a better look. Then a lightbulb went off in his head. “oh my god,” his exclamation filled the three women’s faces with concern. “I just realized I can literally say I’m going to stick my foot up someone’s ass if they piss me off. With a normal foot, that’s anatomically impossible. But I’m practically walking around on a metal dildo. This is perfect,” a mischievous look filled his face.

The CMDR rolled her eyes, the doc looked disgusted, and Eve dissolved into a fit of laughter. “Well he’s fine,” she concluded. “Get your ass out of bed and out here. We’ve got the enemy massing. The intel types say that we’re looking at the biggest assault yet, and we’re going to need you.”

Coop hopped to his feet. This time not falling on his ass. “Sorry, doc, duty calls. Boss’s orders,” he inclined his head at the only woman in the room who held real power in his eyes.” His awkward gait took a moment to get used to, and he was sure it would fuck up his back given enough time.

“Get moving on baking up that new foot for me; chop chop,” he yelled over his shoulder as he hobbled down the hall.

He rounded the corner after her and she ambushed him with a hug and kiss. “Don’t do that again,” her face was hard and vulnerable at the same time.

“I made it back,” he replied defensively as she gripped him tighter. “I made it back,” he repeated, more for his own benefit than hers.

“Let’s keep it that way,” she released him, slapped him in the face, and then grabbed his ass before walking away.

<What the fuck just happened?> he stood there frozen. He liked it, but he still didn’t have any idea what the hell it meant.




Benjamin Gold

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


Ben looked up at the roof of the thatched hut. As far as honeymoons went, it had been fucking awesome. They’d spent the first day in bed, going to town on each other to the point of physical exhaustion. They continued the marathon of love-making every night, but they started venturing out during the day.

Jacobi had been adamant about getting as far away from Gold Island as possible for the honeymoon. He was sure Thomas wanted them on the island and under close guard now that he’d announced his corporate commonwealth to the universe, but Ben told him to shove it. They were on the opposite side of the planet from his traitorous father.

Thankfully, Aurum was basically a giant resort. With a better-than-earth environment, it was paradise no matter where they went. They chose a privately owned resort on the opposite hemisphere that wasn’t much more than small, close-together island chain. It was perfect for them; something that his father didn’t own and operate. It was a family business, where the owner greeted all the guests at the door. Being outside the Gold Technologies supply loop, it was extraordinarily expensive to stay there, but the resort had a reputation of being excellent. So far, that was Ben’s experience.

“Ugh,” Jacobi moaned as she turned over next to him. “I’m sore.”

Ben laughed. “The mighty infantry officer brought low by a hike through the tropical forest. It couldn’t have been more than a two kilometers loop.” The islands weren’t that big.

Not there, here.” She patted her crotch, and Ben blushed a deep scarlet. “I don’t have the enhancements that you do, so take it easy on the old girl.” Ben’s blush deepened.

Jacobi had a full set of marine upgrades, so she was on par with Ben in most cases. That made the relationship hurdles he’d have to jump through with other women non-existent, but there were still some aspects of the enhancement of the human body that the marines didn’t consider worthwhile.

“Don’t look like I just spoiled all the fun,” she purred and laid herself over his chest to give him a long kiss. “A girl just needs some time to recuperate, that’s all. Let’s take the day off and do something else that involves getting wet and sweaty.”

Ben grinned. He’d been wanted to try a wind surfing class. This wasn’t the parasailing with a self-balancing board that you could sit back and have a drink on as a built-in motor skimmed across the waves. This was old-fashioned. You had to keep yourself upright and read the wind and waves to stay standing. It was a challenge, and exactly what his wife was describing.

<Wife,> he grinned. It was still surreal to think he had a wife.

The wedding wasn’t what they wanted. It wasn’t about them. It was about his father and the deal he was making to reshape the universe. They didn’t get to have their friends there; although, most were back in the Commonwealth armed forces and would likely have to invade Aurum to make it to the reception. Still, it would have been nice if at least anything they’d wanted was actually done for their special day.

In the end, no matter the journey, they got to the desired destination. Now, they were enjoying the free time away from everything. It was just about them now. As Jacobi pulled herself out of bed and headed for the shower, he realized as long as he had her, he’d be able to deal with the shit his family handed out.

She was family now, and the part that mattered the most. As far as Ben was concerned, if he never had any interaction with his father ever again it would be too soon. Ben didn’t care about the wealth, he could do without, he cared about Jacobi, Hope, and his mother. Everything else was just meaningless.

Jacobi stopped midway to the bathroom with a confused expression on her face. Clearly, something had popped up on her IOR. “It’s a letter from my new job. They expect me to report in on Monday for orientation and HR processing.”

In everything that had happened, Ben forgot she had a job lined up with Gold Technologies. A quick check of his IOR told him it was Saturday, and they were scheduled to be at the resort until the following Friday.

<Fuck you Dad,> he thought as their honeymoon came to an abrupt end.

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