There Is No Peace - The EOS Chronicles, Book One by Shale Magnus Prange by Shale Magnus Prange - Read Online

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There Is No Peace - The EOS Chronicles, Book One - Shale Magnus Prange

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CONTENTS

CONTENTS

DEDICATION

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

PART ONE

REMEMBER

WAR GAMES

AFTER PARTY

EXPEL

CHANGE

PATH

HONESTY

ENLIGHTENMENT

COMMANDER

PREPARATION

RIGHTS & RING

FRATRICIDE

ENGINEERING

MOTHER

POD

IMPRESSIONS

UNSPOKEN WORDS

PARTING GIFTS

PART TWO

SOLVE

ESCAPE

UNAVOIDABLE

DESCENT

ARRIVAL

FAILURE

ECHE

MOTIONS

PART THREE

EXPLORE

VISITOR

AWKWARD

BUBBLE

THE CHAMBER

BIOMED

BIOCELL

PERIMETER

TOOL

AIR

BLURGSH

PART FOUR

SETTLEMENT

FRACTURE

RISE OF THE LEFT

BREAK

SEEDS

MEMORY

SERMON

INVISIBLE

FARM

PART FIVE

RELAX

LAB

DAYS

SOLSTICE

INJURY

BODY, BABY & BOOM

BACKLASH

VISITOR

PHOBIA

GRAVE

VOICES

SECOND

PART SIX

RESIGNATION

CONSEQUENCES

CONTROL

SISTER

RELEASE

UTOPIA

PART SEVEN

A TOUCH OF YELLOW

STRATEGY

AWAKE

JEREMIAH

OMEN

CONNECTION

BLIND

INFLUENCE

TRANSMIT

OPEN COMMUNICATIONS

STALE

PART EIGHT

MASQUERADE

BREACH

WILL

MINUSCULE

MINDFUL

ONLY ONE

TRAINING

DISINTEGRATE

TRIFECTA

PART NINE

STREWN

TOYS

CLEAN

ENGINES

REACTION

QUEEN

PART TEN

IN THE CHAMBER

NO PEACE

PREVIEW

DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to my commander T. Barnes. May his wisdom live on in his children and generations thereafter.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to: N. Radomdski and each half of One Boy.

PART ONE

REMEMBER

May 13, 2313

Your ring is a reminder of war, remember your training, listen for the whispers, prepare for the inevitable, there is no peace. This was the mantra of my dead childhood.

I left a memento for you from your mother in your new quarters. Open it as you leave this decaying planet. Here is your assignment, my father said, handing me the cube. Before letting it go, he added, Valora, survive.

He broke conventional protocol by using my first name, a pronouncement of endearment, but the banned word mother was what took my breath. His parting remarks loomed as twelve other escaping ship commanders hung on to their leader's final perfectly enunciated words.

Yes, sir, I said, masking affection for fear it would be perceived as weakness on the platform. Zerian soldiers don't cry.

Report to your ship.

I saluted and turned my back to my father on Kavarka. This has become my last memory of him.

Those who escaped are alive today because of him. I have been blessed with pride in his sacrifice and duty, but an endless sinking pit gathers inside my heart because I'm not enough to fulfill his legacy.

WAR GAMES

May 9, 2313

The echoing virtual game arena mirrors the dark cage the war has restricted my people inside. Together as Zerians, we are shielded from the singed, gritty toxicity of our atmosphere, but war-forged walls suffocate my choices with their pre-plotted plans. Graduation day is here, and my arranged marriage not far behind. I stand pondering how there is no escape from Father's plans, staring out into the abyss of the arena.

Ahem…Lieutenant Commander Valora Martin, you are War Games Commander of the Blue team, Father says, pulling my attention back to him as he drones out the rules of the game. He knew my mind had drifted elsewhere. He continues, And Lieutenant Mab Rainer is the War Games Commander of the Red team. Thank you all for cooperation in adjusting to this early War Game.

There is one surprise change announced right before each game starts. It messes up all your best-laid combat plans, forcing everyone to adhere to reality, in which nothing goes as planned. Here it comes: Teams may not use the Caretaker or any other form of artificial intelligence during the game. So communication will run through a centralized physical hub on each side. I suggest you work quickly to revise your war plans.

No War Game has ever been fought without the Caretaker's artificial intelligence. It is integrated into our military defense systems and communication grid. It's intertwined with everyday life, religion, and war. One of its primary directives is to preserve and optimize Zerian life. In fact, the Caretaker is who we are as Zerians, sharing the same DNA.

However, the Caretaker is unnecessary to defeat Mab.

When Father's eyes fasten on me, I see Mab's glares attempting to gouge out my own eyes, which instantaneously stop once he returns to her. Mab's gaze sends nothing but admiration to him. I admire Mab's drive to prove superiority over me, and wish I could care as much as her. I envy her natural passion for Military Arts. Although the suction she uses to kiss elite ass could injure a lesser person's jaw, but years of constant practice help.

Flanking Mab and I are our three War Games Lieutenants. Since I was number one in my class, I hold the title Lieutenant Commander, and I got to choose my lieutenants and troops for the game first. I wish I could bypass this event. Mab and a group of classmates will only hate me more for achieving a win at a game I don't even want to play. With my class rank, winning a War Game will automatically result in promotion to the elite as a Commander, forcing me to follow in Father's Military Arts career's footsteps. Another choice pried from me.

Yes, sir. I salute at the end of his standard, well-rehearsed instructions and motivational talk. Standing across from me, Mab’s doing that extra bit, her salute higher, stiffer, and longer to create theatrics. This is the level of show she always reserves for my father. Tyrell Martin is the highest-ranking officer of the Military Arts Division as its Executive Commander. I want to sigh, but I'm on stage. I pity her, but Mab’s underhanded, unwarranted actions to hurt me in the past make it easier to compete now if only to frustrate her. Lieutenants Hinds, Untell and Elp, are we ready? I say, turning toward Blue Team's future Command Center.

We stand along the edges of the arena. From the four corners, a swarm of translucent shape-shifting nanites jitter across the floor. They connect, layer, and create a skeletal outline of the field of battle. It takes on an otherworldly appearance of large glassy forms like buildings and vehicles. A flood of shimmering, inky nanites rushes in to coat the skeleton in waves. They slither and interweave to form a textured outer skin. Their black color fades as the objects’ skins shift to expected hues. The outer edges beneath our feet and the walls repeat the effect. We are transported into the game. Two combatant groups, Mab's versus mine. My lieutenants each command one squad bearing their name, made of twenty-five ensigns and one chief. Each combatant's camp has a Command Center, Communication Hub, Canteen, an equal number of armed mechanized transport vehicles, and such.

We’ve had two weeks to plan our assaults on each other. With everyone believing I am a rule-abiding Daddy's girl, there's only one unexpected way to go: deception.

Each one of you, check on your squad. Make sure they’re ready for battle without the Caretaker and have memorized the plan, I say. My plan calls for splitting the squads into smaller groups of twenty-four, with the six outcast members selected for a Special Forces team.

Yes, ma'am, they say. I hate the word, ma'am. It's old, restricting, and symbolic of command.

Without revealing my discomfort, I tell them, I’ll meet you afterward in Command Center for the countdown to start. They must double check their plans and their moving parts.

Each lieutenant has a distinct skill necessary for this to succeed. They are not top ranked in our class, but their dedication to execution surpasses mine.

Elp Squad is ready to invade Red, says Lieutenant Siobhan Elp. Behind her lithe frame hides a persona built for order bordering on the obsessive, made explicit in her command. A duplicate frame, except with loud, lightning blond hair sheared close to her scalp, is named Lily Elp, a potent concoction of disorder, loyalty, heart, fighting fury, and ability for creating chaos. She is leading the Special Forces team.

I love the name Mab-Land instead of Red. I'm sure it's way nicer than what she is calling us, I say with a smirk at Lieutenant James Untell’s silly naming convention. James stands with shoulders stiff, hands behind his body, and slips a wink back. Our shared sense of quirky humor, which the others don't get, makes the time pass in this forgone exercise. Siobhan's humor rests in stealth under armor. I hope I can see her drunk at the after party for its unleashing.

Untell Squad ready and our surprises cued at the line, says James, a superior marksman able to infiltrate hard areas by improvisation.

Hinds Squad set, and we have ten seconds to game commencement, says Lieutenant Seger Hinds, my fiancé. The duty of it alone makes him watch my back and want me to win. A generational, genetically bred model of Military Arts the same as I am, he venomously enforces my conformity to the archetype.

The game begins with two combatants with the same resources. It can go on for days until one relents or captures their opponent’s Command Center. I will not allow this game to go past moonrise.

My Command Center becomes motionless as time ebbs forward in spurts. I set up command protocols to empower my lieutenants with autonomous decision-making, so the tension lands on their resolve. Their successful execution, with slight deviations for the unknowns of battle, should leave me an idle voyeur. If I lose, I won’t be in the first position for elite command upon graduation. What is the loss either way? Maybe to Father's pride. I'm sure Governance can make excuses for the Executive Commander's daughter to enter elite, anyway. Whatever happens, I’ll be force fed a command position.

Status on each of your squads? I ask.

Elp Squad is done with setting up the fake invasion in the far east. Awaiting verification of turret placements, Siobhan says, rapidly blinking almond-shaped eyes the color of kelp. Her constant blinking is a sign of nervous tension.

Hinds Squad's fake invasion staged and complete. The last turret is in place to the far west, says Seger. That will not sit well with Siobhan's competitive streak.

Untell Squad in place, center, camouflaged, and awaiting orders. Special Forces made it past the enemy's line, says James."

Any changes to intelligence on Mab-Land troops’ positions? is my next question.

James answers, Special Forces Soldier One reported Mab's squads are at the expected locations at two midpoints from center to the east and west and one at center. Lily could be no other number than one on the Special Forces Team. Special Forces Soldiers Four through Six setting inactive landmines behind the Mab-Land troops. Special Forces Soldiers One through Three awaiting diversions to advance.

Let's not keep Lily waiting too much longer in enemy territory. She might take them on herself and win, I say. That permanent aggressive spirit is the product of youthful heartbreak over untimely deaths.

If I had to bet on anyone taking on an enemy by themselves and winning, I’d pick her. Her absolute commitment to killing makes her feared. To hobble you isn’t enough; she enjoys the thrill of the slaughter. Making her a lieutenant instead of Special Forces during the games is loading my best weapon with blanks. Weapons have an innate wish to unleash destruction. She's a perfect one for War Games.

Elp Squad...complete, says Siobhan, the last one to do so. The verbal lashing her squad chief got will reverberate in his brain for days.

Split Alpha and Omega teams from Elp and Hinds Squads, I say. Each squad is divided into two parts of twelve, named Alpha and Omega. The Alphas stay at the diversion points in the far east and west. The Omegas sneak camouflaged to the front, joining Untell Squad at the center.

Mab's troops fire randomly at us, trying to find my troops' locations. The squads' orders are to stay under stealth till the Omegas rendezvous.

Omegas arrived and combined with my squad into Untell's Augmented Squad, says James.

Elp and Hinds Alphas, execute diversions, I say.

Special Forces report two full squads headed to engage our Alphas in east and west. Mab's sole squad is spreading across the front with two turrets, says James.

Update Augmented Squad with the information and hold. Advance Special Forces One through Three to take out communications. Special Forces Four through Six, plant virtual landmines between Mab-Land's forces, I say, hoping the landmines stop them from regrouping in the center later.

My Command Center becomes the dumbstruck watchers of the Special Forces' attack on the Communications Hub. My team snipes the guards and plants virtual explosives, destroying the hub of Mab's squads, cut off from communications, collapse. The sustained thunderclap of each ground-pounding detonation is overkill, but key to rattling hope, causing confusion, and spreading fear across Mab-Land.

I pity the ensigns in the field. When shot, their virtual suits cause searing pain, paralysis, and the simulated taste of iron-bitter blood building in your mouth.

Advance Special Forces One through Three to Mab-Land Command Center. Special Forces Four through Six, activate the landmines when you believe it can do the most damage. Status of Special Forces Four through Six, Hinds and Elp Alpha Squads? I say. The squads leave open a path for retreat, leading into the landmines. The plan is to lure as many of Mab's troops as possible over the landmines before they explode, creating the maximum amount of damage.

Hinds has higher than expected casualties, but we’re still holding. Their troops seem confused, says Seger.

Siobhan turns to me to report, Elp has minor casualties, but the enemy is retreating toward the landmines. It is a good sign when her manic blinking ceases. Siobhan’s nervous tension falls in anticipation of her enemy’s defeat.

Special Forces Four through Six no casualties, sniping away. Special Forces Soldier Four is helping Hind Squad now taking out the enemy's turrets, says James.

Perfect, and the front? I say.

Augmented Squad breaching the line and forcing Mab’s troops to retreat into landmines, and Special Forces Soldier Five lying in wait to blow them, he answers.

Special Forces has set three areas of landmines between each of Mab's squads to prevent our enemies from rejoining the front or their Command Center. 

Untell's Omega Augmented Squad has been successful, breaching the line and overwhelming the enemy. They now split into thirds and are dispatched to the east, west, and to Mab's Command Center to back up Lily's Special Forces. As if she needs it. The rest are engaging in minor skirmishes with small remaining pockets of Mab-Land forces.

Has Commander Mab sent out a white flag? I ask.

No, she won't give up, says James with the slightest smirk.

Personally, I'd willingly walk out rather than be dragged.

Give Lily the honor, let her breach and take them captive. I watch these coming moments with utter devotion to the screen. If they surrender or not, Lily will fire on them for the pleasure of it.

Special Forces hauls out Mab's paralyzed lieutenants first, then the jewel, Mab, is dragged by the collar, her head hanging heavily. My forces drop her at the feet of her lieutenants. I guess the game is worth winning after all.

I abandon etiquette with a resounding cheer. Everyone joins in. James can't contain his excitement and my starting only increases his. He runs over and we jump like children, the same way we’ve celebrated our victories for years. Command Center follows with glee, the feeling flowing into the squads on the field. Helmet cameras bob, capturing unusual angled motions of joy.

For a blissful moment, I'd forgotten this means graduation. The last youthful milestone in my Military Arts career has been passed, locking me into my destiny.

AFTER PARTY

The spirits of winners and losers alike lift through drink and bonding. For a night, the sterile tables and white walls of the Canteen disappear. Buried beneath linens and congratulation banners showing the Military Arts crest, with liquor and treats sprinkled on the tables.

As the winning Commander, I must give a speech to unite the two teams; we are all soldiers and Zerians.

Thank you for your hard work and for making this War Game such a challenging event. To my ensigns, squad chiefs, and lieutenants, much gratitude. Special thanks to my fearless artists in deception, Lily Elp and her Special Forces. Last, to the rest of you: great job, let’s banish the word ‘losers’ from our vocabulary since you made it so hard to win. Raise your drink and let's toast our fellow Zerian Military Arts soldiers. May God be with us in battle.

On the table, in a sea of happy people below chanting my name. Two stand as still as stone with silent glares—Mab and Seger—while Siobhan dances with a broad smile across ruby imbibed cheeks. My empty glass is my only concern; future retaliations of Mab and my sins of disappointing Seger will wait.

Graduation party over, our feet shuffle as if weighted, unable to coordinate with brains afloat in liquor. Seger and I trudge along the corridors. He more than carries me back towards my quarters, still in a state of glee. My mind keeps going back to the brief freedom beyond the uniform.

His sober eyes reflect outright annoyance with each misstep and wobble. Emboldened by liquid courage, I hazard peering inside his thoughts.

Why are you mad? I say.

I am not. His eyes stare rigidly ahead like the hallway holds salvation.

Bullshit. As your commanding officer...I require you speak freely.

Since when is excessive drinking a requirement for the occasion? You're a leader, you set examples, and you made a poor one.

You don't consider...how it looks, me not taking part in an event. The privileged, snooty Executive Commander Martin's daughter can't spend time with the lowly. It is our last rite of passage and a social building event among our peers and future teammates. The one time fun is allowed, you don't want me to have it. You fail to understand what it’s like when duty won’t let you be yourself. I have been holding back when required, and when I get the chance to be free, I will take it. Don't worry, these are the last moments before we get assigned to the war. If someone wants to hold my drinking during a sanctioned event against me, well, go ahead! I remember two people not enjoying themselves. You and crazy Mab. Maybe you should find her; she can be what you want!

I will right now. He drops my arm and pushes me against the wall. Wish you luck getting to your quarters.

The walk now goes slower, but I steady myself against each wall. The thought of marriage is so terrible that my body tries to physically eject it, only to paint the wall with the contents of my stomach. I raise my head to check around if anyone had seen this new low.

Valora, let me help you to your quarters. Luckily, it’s nonjudgmental Lily. She doesn't drink; she gets her kicks off adrenaline. If the liquor released her mental restraints, she'd challenge the entire class to a weapons duel, everyone against her. Safer for everyone, she doesn't.

Thank you—and thanks for today.

The most fun I had all year. The classroom activities get monotonous. We chuckle together and while we walk, we discuss her sister's uncharacteristic display in front of the others. I struggle to remain upright, but I enjoy the light-spirited conversation.

Here are your quarters, ma'am. Sleep well.

Good night and thanks again. I could not have done it without you, It is nice to see her relax and happy again. She is my sister in parental loss. I knew her before, but now her anger clings and blazes during battle, and a shielded heart remains. Her sister locks the pain in deep, releasing it in cuts of slivered skin.

I open my door to Father, who sits waiting for me. What is it now? Is this regarding my drinking? Did Seger tattle? Can't everyone wait till morning to express their disappointments?

Father, respectfully, I can't do this round of what-way-I'm-failing to apply myself tonight, I say.

His voice serious, Adding ‘respectfully’ in front doesn't make a statement respectful. I must speak to you now. Congratulations on your win and graduation, but things have changed with the war. Your first mission away from Kavarka is in days. We will speak more in the morning. He rises, turns, shifts his weight toward his room.

I sigh, I am a soldier for life.

EXPEL

May 10, 2313

I drank yesterday and let the demons resurrect my pains as I slept. They expel me from a nightmare to the raging pulse of a sweaty head. It’s rare that I dream of her anymore, the war outside is now a more immediate threat for me to fear than the one caused by her sudden disappearance. Still, I'll take Mother any way I can. Her alive would’ve altered everything. Father would've let me stay in Engineering Division with Mother. Brother Aeryk would’ve been ecstatic at us not in competition in the same division. The familiar taste of bile rises