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Marcellus: The Mantle

Marcellus: The Mantle

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Marcellus: The Mantle

Length:
284 pages
3 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Jan 31, 2015
ISBN:
9781310278921
Format:
Book

Description

Marcellus: The Mantle is a science-fiction superhero novel with an abundance of alien personalities and powers, and serves as an introduction to the Marcellus series.
The ultimate legendary hero and galactic warrior, Marcellus bears the Mantle; a cloak that endows him with immense foresight and strength. He commands the Marcellans; masterful soldiers that fight for justice.
Marcellus leaves the implosion of his home galaxy in a warship to scour the universe for a habitable planet. Sworn enemies of the Marcellans have now vanished. However, they have planted a saboteur in the depths of the warship. At this critical point, the powers of the Mantle begin to fade...

Publisher:
Released:
Jan 31, 2015
ISBN:
9781310278921
Format:
Book

About the author

Alex James was the bass guitarist in the nineties band Blur, a life he chronicled with great success in his first book, Bit of a Blur. He now lives on a farm in the Cotswolds with his wife and five children, makes cheese, writes for both the Sun and the Spectator and has his own show on Classic FM. In September 2011 he hosted the ‘Harvest’ festival at his farm, combining the best in British music and food.


Related to Marcellus

Book Preview

Marcellus - Alex James

James

Novels

The Antpod Faction

Roc Isle: The Descent

Roc Isle: Tempest

Marcellus: The Mantle

Please see the back of this book for more details on my stories!

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank my family, whose ongoing support has been invaluable and has allowed me to continue publishing books. They always help whenever I do events or when I need advice.

Part One

Prologue

Marcellus gazed outward at the twinkling stars. Miniature beams of white light flickered back at him somnolently. He stood with his arms folded. The straps of his black suit, and the silver pieces of armour attached to it, rustled and tightened in anticipation. The air around him in his private chamber was still. He could hear a very faint whistling noise, but could not accurately pinpoint its source. Perhaps it was the vacuum of space, permeating through the view-port.

It was time for the Tekromuns to find their salvation. Too long had they waited in the shadows of the Marcellan warship, biding their time and performing routine duties. The voyage from the ruined remnants of the Nebulou Galaxy had been arduous, if only because it drained the patience and integrity of the troop discipline.

Marcellus stretched his senses further, hearing the dull sound of the engine propulsion systems. He sighed in relief. It was reassuring to hear that there was such unity and discipline on board the warship.

He swiftly turned his head to look behind, where he felt a minute flicker of consciousness sharply intersect the invisible air.

‘Come in!’ his deep voice boomed.

A second later one of his troop pressed the admission button, which would channel through to light up a bright lime-green indicator inside Marcellus’ chamber. The indicator now flashed, too brightly for Marcellus’ acute senses.

The door swished open, and a typical Tekromun soldier walked in with a tightly controlled gait embodied by thickly plated dark-green armour, which encouraged rigidity. The Tekromun had his arm up in a salute. Marcellus nodded to permit the Tekromun access.

Marcellus could see so much, beyond the purely physical. But he instead focused on the purple, splotched, and thick leathery face of the soldier; an appearance typical of the Tekromun race.

It was Martesui. Names were less important to Marcellus than the fine details of souls. However, Martesui was a name that had stuck with Marcellus recently. Physical appearances were very deceiving in a universe where there was every kind of race imaginable. But Martesui was not an ordinary Tekromun soldier; of this truth Marcellus was becoming convinced.

Decades ago Marcellus and the last Marcellans boarded their stealth warship and escaped from the implosion of the Nebulou Galaxy. Marcellus had the image in his memory of his one-hundred thousand Tekromuns racing up the boarding ramp in organised files. That was when Marcellus had perceived a glitch, or alteration, regarding one of his troops. And that glitch had been Martesui, Marcellus was certain.

‘Commander, I have come to report a series of anomalies surrounding the ship. There are red nebulous gases and clouds converging to the rear. They have unknown properties…’

‘They are nothing to worry about. We are in unexplored territory. The universe is a big place, and we have to expect that our technologies will be unable to understand all of it. There are anomalies, clouds, and elements that we have never come across, or will ever again. Where are we? The truth is that we are nowhere. I do not know how large the universe is, we could be lost in its bowels forever, but that is the risk we all took. That is the risk we had to take!’

Martesui bowed his helmeted head in recognition. He wasn’t wearing a weapon, Marcellus noticed. This incompetence was not something Marcellus had seen before. The twitches and the physical discomfort were commonly seen on the alien; he always did appear as if he wore the skin of a body he wasn’t comfortable in.

‘Where is your weapon? And why are there brown sludge marks on the back of your legs? Have you been down in the engineering levels?’ Marcellus imperiously demanded.

Martesui looked lost for words, and very guilty.

He could feel the aura of frustration and shame coming from Martesui.

‘You are dismissed,’ Marcellus declared.

The door slid closed, and Marcellus was left alone again.

Nothing is as it seems!

Chapter One – Deception

Marcellus was in his private chambers. He was doubled over, coughing and spluttering. His back arched, which made his black cape swing wildly. Fluid painted the inside of his boxy silver helmet. He choked, and reared his head up. His hands clenched into fists, and he felt feverish. This was the first time he had been ill … in a long time.

Marcellus was up again. He adjusted his cape, programmed his internal computer in his helmet to carry out a clean-up, and then strode out of his chamber.

He bounded through the straight dimly lit corridors, past entrances and exits on both sides, all the way to the Communications Centre. The sound of his black boots was heavy on the hard floor. Some of the lights flickered. He would get somebody to fix them. The appearance of problems was a relief because it gave the troop something to do, something to focus on.

Marcellus traversed through a network of straight corridors, and then emerged in the Communications Centre, where he found Marcellans typically hard at work on communication consoles. The consoles were arranged in the pattern of an inner and an outer circle. The former was for highly trained officers, while the latter was for those who performed more specific and routine duties. Every officer had on the characteristic armour of a Marcellan; thick green armour plates and a helmet with a translucent visor. Every Marcellan on board the warship was a Tekromun; the race of purple thick-skinned brutes whose home planet had long been dismissed after the tremendous voyage. They never aged. For them, only war changed appearances, and war was what they were made for.

Marcellus surveyed the readouts on the miniature screens, which were stationed above the control panels of the inner circle. Everything seemed to be satisfactory. Some of the Marcellans saluted, or nodded their heads in acknowledgement of his presence. They would never forget his legacy. The mission was always set by Marcellus, and they would carry it out diligently. It had been like that, ever since he had conquered the galaxy. He had earned the respect of all of them. The decision to leave the ruins of the galaxy had been a difficult one; it had been ripping itself to pieces and those Marcellans who stayed were doomed. The cause of the destruction, or implosion, was not known.

Marcellus received a message on his silver gauntlet. He slid back the smooth silver panel on his left wrist. The face of Martesui appeared. He must have been in the engineering levels again, even though he should have been taking orders from the Logistics Centre. Marcellus was sure he was about his own business. For a Marcellan, Martesui was incredibly independent, or insolent…

‘Commander, I have been monitoring the engineering levels, and have come across some strange readings.’

‘Did anybody authorise you to be in that area of the ship? I thought it was clear that those areas are out of bounds.’

Martesui nodded guiltily.

‘I have reason to believe there is a Marcellan down here.’

‘That is an incredible statement. I assume you are not referring to your own presence. What Marcellan would have a reason to go there?’

‘A desperate Marcellan would, Commander.’

A few of the nearby Marcellans looked up from their consoles. Marcellus looked back at them, and they swiftly went back to their duties. He checked the screen of his gauntlet again.

‘You are never to go there again, is that understood?’ intoned Marcellus quietly, with barely constrained anger.

‘Yes Commander,’ Martesui abruptly replied, a little too easily.

This was not good for discipline, Marcellus thought. An independent Marcellan could threaten the entire troop. All it took was one incident of disloyalty or disorganisation and the ship’s morale would tumble, and chaos would replace everything. Marcellus had to handle this situation very delicately.

‘You are to meet me in my chamber, immediately!’

Sliding the panel of his gauntlet closed, he stormed out of the Communications Centre, feeling the glances of the Marcellans behind him. They knew this was very unusual. Already the alien had infected them with its eccentricities. Marcellus would have to do something about it.

Marcellus waited in his private chamber. He even had another coughing fit, which displeased him a lot. Two hours later and there was no Martesui.

Out of his private chamber, he stamped down the corridors, his black cloak billowing in his passage.

***

Two more hours and Marcellus had found him. At the end of the dark-purple corridor, based at the rear of the ship, was Martesui, handling an interface terminal with a dexterity his fellow Tekromun soldiers lacked. He didn’t look back, though Marcellus knew he was aware of his superior’s presence. The insolent nature of the alien continued to appear more and more on this never-ending voyage; becoming bolder, and more independent and eccentric. For some reason he was losing his mask.

Marcellus was at him in an instant, wrenching his shoulder around and slamming him against the wall beside the small interface terminal. Marcellus tightened his hands around the throat of the Marcellan.

‘There is one way, there is only one way I can see we can succeed,’ Marcellus hissed, ‘and that is where you die!’

Marcellus grasped the alien’s throat very firmly, perhaps choking off most of his air supply.

The alien struggled, its legs kicking with futility, but it was no match for the Commander’s infinite strength.

Marcellus abruptly let go; and the alien dropped to the ground, landing on all fours, with knees pointed up and hands behind his torso.

It would have been too easy and … Marcellus couldn’t bring himself to do it. It would increase the chances of successfully completing the mission, and it would prevent further insubordination. Both were not good enough reasons, however furious he was.

Martesui was breathing rapidly. He rose to face Marcellus. Behind the Tekromun body and face Marcellus saw insolence so blatant and obvious that he almost flinched from it. His right arm twitched with indecision; should he strike?

‘You’re not a Tekromun, that much I have inferred. Was it your plan for me to know?’

Martesui shook his head, a mere six inches away from Marcellus’ tall broad figure.

Hearing silence, Marcellus was still tempted to strike the alien. What was it about him that made him so repellent?

‘Speak of your intentions, for I am not sure I trust them. I do not detect a plot to destabilise the mission, but that doesn’t mean I believe you have a right to be on this ship.’

Martesui looked up fiercely at Marcellus. He was seething, which was obvious. There was some incredible rage bursting inside the alien, and Marcellus found himself wondering why.

‘I am … a Marcellan,’ he rasped. He stood up straighter and stuck out his chest.

‘You are an imposter! There is only one way you can save yourself, and that is to admit to it. Denying it will lead to you being stripped of rank and thrown out of an airlock.’

‘I am … a Marcellan,’ the alien pronounced, with more vigour.

Marcellus waited and watched, while the alien twitched characteristically.

‘We’re at a deadlock. You can speak before me, or you can speak before the troop. I suggest you make that choice now, before I make it for you.’

‘I am no traitor.’

‘I didn’t think you were a traitor, though you are not what you seemed at first to be. It was easy to overlook in the midst of galactic war and the galactic implosion. Now…’

‘I am carrying out my duty, to the Marcellans.’

‘You do things differently to a Marcellan. How do I know that your aims coincide with ours?’

‘I am not a Tekromun, as you say. That does not change my loyalty to you and your cause. I cannot hide my race any longer, not in front of your discerning eyes. However, I am concerned for the welfare of the troop.’

‘Are you referring to the Marcellan you found in the engineering levels?’

Martesui nodded carefully. Thankfully, he seemed to have calmed down a lot now, which was a start, especially since he had been very close to being killed mere moments ago.

‘You were rerouting the surveillance systems using that interface terminal, why?’

‘I have not seen this Marcellan, but I can sense him.’

Marcellus understood that Martesui was hunting a Marcellan, which was unusual, to say the least.

‘You saw fit to report this to me, but you failed to comply with my order to meet me in my private chamber. I need to be made aware of the situation.’

The alien looked cautiously at Marcellus, as if weighing whether he could trust him. It was apparent that Martesui was adept at working alone. He must fear reprisals if he confided in others. Marcellus could see there was something else he feared, what was it?

‘There is a Marcellan lurking in the engineering levels. He has been there for a long time.’

‘Since we ventured forth?’

Martesui nodded.

‘I don’t believe this,’ Marcellus replied frankly.

‘He is not to be trusted.’

‘If he is not to be trusted then he is not a Marcellan!’ Marcellus stated.

Martesui nodded.

Marcellus’ eyes widened. His muscles tensed and his heart beat faster. He shook his head in denial. He then planted his fist inside the palm of his other hand.

‘This can’t be!’ he growled.

There was an intruder on board. The intruder wasn’t Martesui, nor was it a Marcellan. It might not even be a Tekromun, but it must have come from the Nebulou Galaxy!

Chapter Two – Saboteur

Marcellus was down in the engineering levels based at the bottom of the ship. These were characterised by twisting claustrophobic passages, inundated with bulky machinery and pipes sprouting steam.

He drew his silver pistols from his side holsters, and held them high. The red targeting lasers of them decorated the low ceiling above him. Doggedly following behind, about ten metres away, was Martesui.

There were whistling noises, and the sound of dripping water. It was extremely cold in this part of the ship.

Marcellus was in the entrance corridor of these levels, prepared for a thorough search, but he was confused why his enhanced intuitive skills and senses could not detect anything. How had Martesui known?

‘When did you discover the presence of the intruder?’ Marcellus spoke into the communication unit in his helmet, which was relayed to the small earpiece in Martesui’s helmet, without any need for speaking aloud.

‘I smelt him,’ Martesui said simply.

‘How long have you been hunting him?’

‘I smelt him a while back. Only recently did I consider how I was going to hunt him.’

‘You were torn between notifying me of the intruder, and of concealing your differences from me. In the end it changed nothing: by trying to hunt independently you were forced to sacrifice your skin and mask, allowing me to see through you. Why did discovery make you afraid?’

‘I am not a Tekromun.’

‘There have been races of every description that have proudly called themselves Marcellan.’

‘The first Marcellans were Tekromun, and the Marcellans on this ship are Tekromun.’

‘I also see you’re trying to hide your race. Why is that? Even I cannot perceive what you are, beneath your artificial exterior. So I ask again, what are you afraid of?’

Silence greeted Marcellus’ question.

Martesui continued to intrigue Marcellus.

Marcellus coughed again, only softly, but it was enough for Martesui to see that something was wrong. Marcellus, the galactic space-warrior and conqueror of the galaxy, did not cough.

Marcellus continued onward, with pistols raised.

A small creature squealed loudly and ran past. Marcellus aimed, but then swiftly retracted his aim. It was a space rat. Hunting them down on the upper levels was a common duty. Nobody went down to engineering, in case they interfered with the ship’s engines. Nobody on this warship was qualified to work with engines.

‘He’s here!’ Martesui whispered into the communications unit.

Marcellus stopped. Beside him was a rough rectangular shape, which was an entrance to a maintenance room. There were no lights on, almost jet-black in fact.

Marcellus looked back at Martesui and spoke into his communications unit: ‘Flush him out!’

Martesui backtracked the way they had come. Meanwhile, Marcellus aimed his pistols forward, seeing the red lasers illuminate the thick darkness of the maintenance room beyond.

There were repetitive noises, perhaps of rotating objects going around. Marcellus wished he knew more about engines than he did. There was a quick sound to the right. He turned and

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