Two Worlds – Chapter 360

Eve Berg

Location: Unnamed Planet, Contested System, Unaligned Space

{Initializing,} the AI chimed as it started its boot-up function.

Part of that was the flood of drugs that got pumped into Eve’s system. Her eyelids slowly peeked open as she was returned to consciousness, and a soft groan escaped her lips.

“Mission clock,” she commanded.

{Thirty-two hours and twelve minutes,} the AI replied.

“Go verbal. I don’t want anything in my head while its pounding like this,” she ordered.

A straw automatically reached out to touch her lips and she drank deeply.

“Activate display,” she stated when she’d gotten her dehydration under control.

“Command recommended that we wait until we hit the thermosphere before going online,” to her ears, it sounded like the AI was whining.

“I know what command said, and if I was some tin-can skipper, I might think that way too. I can’t lead if I can’t see. Boot up the display. Now,” she snapped.

There was a flicker and the display came to life. It wasn’t technically a display. She was seeing everything through her IOR’s sync with the MOUNT’s computer systems; but telling the silicone brain to turn on her eyes just felt wrong.

<Whoa,> she couldn’t help but gulp as her visuals popped to life.

She was surrounded by the complete and utter darkness of the void. She’d never been claustrophobic in her life, but one look outside her MOUNT, and it was enough to make her reconsider her chosen profession. One misplaced decimal point, and she’d be stuck in this metal coffin for the rest of her life.

<Lock it up,> she told herself and focused on the mission.

It took up most of the space in front of her. A big brownish gray ball. It didn’t have a name. No one really lived on it. It wasn’t some holy site, but despite all of that, men and women were dying on its surface in the name of the almighty dollar. One of those people was Coop, her fiancé, father to her daughter.

Put all that together, and it pissed her off. She should still be on maternity leave, dealing with dirty diapers, and an uncooperative Coop who didn’t know a baby wipe from a frag grenade. That’s what she should be doing right now; not hurtling through the void for the first-ever orbital drop of Commonwealth MOUNTs.

“How long until we hit atmosphere?” she asked.

“Seventeen minutes,” the AI promptly calculated.

“What are the chances the Confed ships will pick up a tight-beam communication?” she inquired.

“Sixty-two percent,” the AI killed the idea formulating in her mind.


The RADM’s plan was simple in theory, difficult in execution. The fleet needed to clear out the orbitals. That meant the battleships and their escorts duking it out with the Confed’s cruisers. The ending of that story was already written. The only part left to be decided was time, and time was something the grunts on the ground didn’t have. So, ironically enough, it was Eve who suggested the orbital insertion.

The MOUNTs were capable, and it was the fastest way to get boots on the ground without clearing the orbitals and launching Spyders. They could shave as much as eight hours off the time to get their soldiers the support they needed. Plus, six MOUNTs were more than enough to clear an LZ on the ground, provide security for landing troops, while simultaneously taking the fight to the enemy. It was a win-win for everyone; except maybe the MOUNT pilots.

So, the enemy couldn’t detect them, they had to launch from far out through the ship’s missile pods. The hope was the enemy would be so keen to watch the oncoming battleships, that they wouldn’t notice the tiny MOUNTs passing through their orbital blockade.

With only a few minutes left until they hit the atmosphere, Eve was well inside their engagement envelope. She wasn’t dead yet. Of course, the real fireworks would begin once the hit the natural barrier around the planet. They’d been fired out of the ships on a course to take them on an orbit of the planet starting on the opposite side. They’d light up like a signal beacon as they descended through the atmosphere, and hopefully be low enough once they hit the opposite hemisphere to avoid any surface-to-air ordinance. It would be a race to the surface, and one Eve was determined to win.

She instantly regretted the decision when she hit the atmosphere. It felt like her feet leapt into her throat, and someone donkey kicked her in the vajayjay. Her MOUNT rattled like a decades-old air-car, and she was positive her whole trajectory was out of whack. She ignored that, and left any adjustments to the AI.

“All Red elements, check in,” she ordered as she brought the armor’s comms suite online.

Stealth was out the window now. It looked like half a dozen shooting stars were streaking across the sky.

“Red-three, repeat status,” she asked when one of the MOUNTs failed to check in.

“Red Four to Red Leader, I’ve got a visual on Red Three. He’d splattered over half the continent.”

Eve didn’t let her frustration show through the comms. “Anyone see what happened?” she had her own AI checking for anything out of the ordinary.

“I think the cannon cockers messed up, chief,” Red Six chimed in. “Probably . . .”

The pilot cut off as alarms started to beep simultaneously in all the MOUNTS. Their scanners were going ape shit due to the surface-to-air missiles blazing towards them.

“Evasive . . .!” a concussive blast threw Eve’s failed human body against the metal shell, and Red Four’s icon disappeared off her TACNET.

“Elevation?” she asked her AI, the panic in her voice rising.

“Thirty thousand meters,” it replied. That didn’t help at all.

They were sitting ducks. Their shields were already taxed from reentry, and the weapons systems weren’t designed to fight like this. Eve deployed her swatter, and it lasted about thirty seconds before the stress torqued the weapons of position. It didn’t rip it right off her frame, but it jammed the ammo feed; so, she was just as screwed. She slaved her anti-personnel cannon to her AI and let it do the shooting, but there was only so much it could do against the Confed ordinance.

She saw the streaking missile heading for her. She felt her MOUNT rumble as it returned fire, and she had just enough time to realize it wasn’t going to be enough. There was a bright light, and white-hot pain as things ripped through her. She screamed, but it didn’t do any good. She felt her MOUNT, and herself coming apart in the air above this fucking rock.

Her last sight before she blacked out was all of her Red elements getting torn up by enemy missiles thousands of meters above the deck, and nowhere near completing the mission of rescuing Coop.

<Well, shit,> she sat up gasping for breath as the dim lights blazed to life and she shook off the VR shock. The IOR’s were too good at completely immersing you in a scenario.

“Chief,” she’d barely had time to shake her head when the infantry commander was beside her.

“Sir,” she kept on blinking until her vision focused properly.

“That was an unmitigated, fucking disaster,” the CMDR shook his head. “It was a good idea, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to launch your team as a vanguard.”

“I’d like to run it a few more times, sir. Refine our approach. See if we can do anything differently,” she wasn’t pleading, but it was close.

The CMDR looked at his watch. “You’ve got nine hours left until we hit the system. After that, we’ve got to present something to the admiral.”

“Roger that, sir. We’re on it,” she gave the infantry OIC a nod, and he walked off. “Take five everyone, and then we go again.”

There was more than one groan, but her glare shut them up. No one there had as much at stake as she did, and if she could shave a second off the time it took them to relieve the embattled grunts planet side, it would be worth it.

<Hang in there, Coop,> she’d been saying that a lot to herself.

Five minutes later her IOR took her back into the all-too-real VR simulation.



3 thoughts on “Two Worlds – Chapter 360

  1. I just want to give everyone out there a heads up that my posting is going to be slowing down here coming up. I’ve got a major life event coming up, and will probably be offline for two weeks. Not sure how many chapters I’ll be able to get out a month, but I’ll do my best to be consistent; even if I have to decrease to two or three a month. I appreciate everyone who has continued to follow Coop, Eve, and cast on their expansive adventure. I just want to manage expectations coming up here.

    Clans of Atlantis out in kindle and unlimited. Pick up your copy today.

    Now is the perfect time to pick up some books if you’re stuck at home. I’m reducing the price on all my works so people can enjoy them if they’re on a tighter budget. If you haven’t yet, I highly encourage you to check out my published works. They’re easily viewed from my Author’s Page. What I earn from those helps to go into editing and artwork costs for future books. So please pick them up, and just as importantly, leave a short review and let everyone know what you think. Every review is greatly appreciated! It’s the best form of advertising for an indie author like me, and I like to hear what people think.

    The patreon only series is going strong. The O’Keefe Chronicles is a sci-fi/fantasy series more in line with Two Worlds. If you are in the SSG or GYSGT tier you’ll be privy to a chapter every Monday this month . You can act as beta readers, give input, and enjoy a rich new world I’ve dreamt up. The content is mainly sci-fi, but with a dash of magic. Click on the Patreon Channel if you want to donate and read this creative new series.

    Also, vote for Two Worlds on topwebfiction by giving it a boost here and help bring attention to the series.

    Thanks for everyone who has considered donating to my indie writing career through PayPal. At this time, with everything on my plate, I can’t reliably produce bonus chapters :(. If you still want to donate to my indie writing career either by becoming a monthly patreon or donating through PayPal then you and a gentleman and a scholar ;). Both links are on the right side of my Home Page.


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