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by James Scott DeLane
Category: Science Fiction
Description: In the shielded city of New Vancouver, civilians struggle to build normal lives while faced with the constant threat of annihilation. Total war against an alien race bent on enslaving the human population has devastated vast areas of the earth. Military victories have eased the imminent threat of alien domination but the war grinds without end. Ava Kliest and her two younger sisters work to build a viable business in a corrupt city that regards German refugees with disdain. Ava develops an unlikely romance with a damaged young soldier. In the midst of an alien assault, Ava rushes to Eric's aide. Together they battle a devastating onslaught.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2012 Double Dragon Publishing
eBookwise Release Date: July 2012
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [199 KB]
Reading time: 116-162 min.
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"Achtung", Sergeant Ernst Gottschalk ordered. Forty men slammed their right heels to the floor in a coordinated blast that rattled the walls. The soldiers stared straight ahead while Samantha Reinhard marched through the briefing room door. Her dark red uniform and spit-shined black boots matched theirs except for twin gold bars on her lapels. Samantha tossed a brown box on a table next to the door and leveled her gaze at four rows of soldiers staring at her. Her focus shifted along the ranks until she had peered directly into each man's eyes.
"Hello, Hornets," she greeted.
"Hello, Captain," they replied in a single voice.
Samantha dipped her stern chin and marched aggressively toward a young soldier standing rigid in the first row. She halted half a meter from his face and bore her fierce gaze into his eyes.
"Sergeant," she barked.
"Yes, Captain," Ernst answered in a sharp tone.
"What am I looking at?"
Sergeant Gottschalk marched with machinelike precision to his captain's side. The stout soldier slammed his right heel and stood at attention.
"My Captain is looking at Lieutenant Eric Blumenthal," Ernst answered. "The lieutenant served with valor on the Saturn ring."
Captain Reinhard narrowed her gaze into the young man's eyes.
"Is that right, soldier?" she demanded.
"Yes sir," the youngest man in the room replied.
"I've heard about this officer," Captain Reinhard said to her sergeant with a glimmer in her green eyes.
"What did you hear, sir?" Ernst asked.
Captain Reinhard pressed her face to within an inch of Eric's blue eyes.
"I heard this fucker eats Drike guts for breakfast. Is that true, soldier?"
"Yes sir!" Eric roared.
Captain Reinhard stepped back from Eric and addressed her team.
"No one wears the Red Hornet unless we all agree. Does this man deserve the honor of eating with us, fighting with us, and dying with us?"
"Yes sir," her team shouted with vigor.
"Hand me that box, Sergeant," Captain Reinhard ordered and extended her open right hand.
Ernst slapped the brown package into her palm. With her gaze fixed on Eric she ripped open the box and held a brown leather jacket to Eric's face.
"Are you good enough to wear this?"
"Yes, sir," Eric snapped.
Captain Reinhard smiled and offered her right hand to Eric.
"Welcome to the Red Hornets."
His comrades cheered their approval. Eric slipped his arms into the sleeves of his prized leather jacket. He rubbed the patch of an angry Red Hornet with its long stinger exposed that was sewn in the leather above his heart.
"How do you feel?" Captain Reinhard asked.
"I feel like killing some Drikes," Eric answered.
The briefing room door swung open.
"Achtung!" Sergeant Gottschalk shouted.
The soldiers snapped to attention with stiff spines and hard stares. Colonel Max Blumenthal faced the assembly with his brow tensed. He wore light brown combat fatigues with the distinctive Second Corps battleax switched into his sleeves. A small Red Hornet patch decorated his left chest. Two gold eagles shined on his labels. Max surveyed the ranks with his stern gaze.
"Captain Reinhard," the colonel called.
"Sir," she answered and quick marched to his side.
"What am I looking at?" Max demanded.
"The colonel is looking at the Red Hornets," she answered with pride.
Max walked the ranks peering into the eyes of every man.
"Do you know what I see, Captain?" he asked.
"What do you see, Colonel?"
A thin smile curled on Colonel Blumenthal's lips.
"I see some alien killing motherfuckers."
"Hoorah!" the Red Hornets shouted.
The esprit de corps drew a satisfied nod from Max.
"I've just left General Halder's office," he informed Captain Reinhard. "Supreme Command intelligence has identified a critical target but their top planners declared the enemy facility too heavily guarded. Do you know what General Halder told those desk squatters?"
"What did the general tell them, sir?" Captain Reinhard asked.
Max steeled his eyes.
"He told those splinter butt bureaucrats that the Red Hornets don't give a flying fuck how many Drikes there are. Does your team feel like butchering some lizards?"
"Yes sir," Captain Reinhard shouted with zeal.
Max locked his gaze on the young man wearing the new leather jacket.
"What about you, Lieutenant? Are you ready to spill green blood?"
Eric's blue eyes steeled.
"Red Hornets eat Drike guts for breakfast."
"You're goddamn right," Captain Reinhard added.
Max nodded his approval.
"At zero seven hundred tomorrow the Red Hornets will disembark in a captured alien freighter bound for a high priority research facility on the Drike moon," Max explained. "We might drop a nuke on the Drike capital as a special present from the Red Hornets. How does that sound?"
"That sounds like fun, sir," Samantha replied with enthusiasm.
Max peered into Captain Reinhard's green eyes.
"Who trained these coldblooded alien killers?"
"We train as a team sir," she replied.
"That is bullshit," Max scoffed. He faced the ranks. "Who trained the baddest, toughest, meanest motherfuckers in this universe?"
"Reinhard the Drike killer," the soldiers roared.
"You're goddamn right she did," Max agreed. "A case of New Vancouver beer for the Red Hornet with the most lizard skins."
Colonel Blumenthal snapped a crisp salute to Captain Reinhard that she promptly returned.
"I almost feel sorry for those poor alien fuckers," Max said with a smile.
He shook Samantha's hand and marched through the door.
Samantha faced her team with Sergeant Gottschalk at her side.
"Do you boys want to butcher some Drikes?" she asked.
"Yes, Captain," the Hornets replied.
"I can't hear you," Samantha shouted.
"Yes, Captain!" the Hornets roared.
"Get a good night's sleep," Samantha advised. She saluted her team and they saluted her. She faced her sergeant. "Dismiss the Hornets," she said and marched crisply from the room.
"Stand at ease," Sergeant Gottschalk grunted.
The men relaxed their ridged stance. They took turns shaking their new lieutenant's hand and patting him on the back. The soldiers drifted from the briefing room leaving Eric and Sergeant Gottschalk alone.
"You look good in that leather jacket, boy," the veteran said with a smile. "I know your father is proud."
"That means a lot coming from you," Eric replied with a youthful grin. He brushed his hands over his slick new coat. "The leather smells nice."
Ernst glanced over his shoulder to make sure they were alone.
"When we lost Major Krupp, Captain Reinhard took over. She's done a hell of a job under tough conditions."
"Krupp was a topnotch combat leader," Eric said with a respectful nod.
"My captain deserves a good lieutenant," Ernst said. "I can't think of a finer choice than you."
"I appreciate that," Eric replied.
Ernst lowered his voice.
"This will be her first live fire mission. She is counting on you to stick by her when the shooting starts."
"I'll be there," Eric answered.
"I know you will son," Ernst agreed. "See you at first light, Lieutenant."
Ernst and Eric strolled from the briefing room. They shook hands and parted ways. Eric skipped down the stone steps of the Second Corps headquarters. He hopped the electric tram and rode on the platform holding the brass hand railing. The gray haired conductor smiled and tipped his red hat at Eric. The tram whizzed along the New Vancouver streets stopping at intersections to collect passengers. Eric gazed into the shop windows and waved at the children who waved at him. The tram whizzed through the triumphant marble arch in UpTown center. Battle victories were etched in the stone to commemorate fallen heroes. The tram rolled past Green Park with its colorful carousel and tall Ferris wheel. At the next to the last tram stop, Eric noticed a billboard above the entrance to a prewar brick house. A stylish blue orchid lay against a white silk scarf. The caption read, Elegant Entertainment for Discriminating Gentlemen.
A whorehouse, Eric surmised.
The tram rolled to the last stop. Eric hopped from the platform and tipped his cap to the cheerful conductor. Eric walked toward two yellow stripes painted on the pavement just past the tram stop. The helpful conductor called to him.
"Are you lost, young fellow?" he inquired with fatherly concern.
"No, sir," Eric replied.
"There is nothing on the other side of those yellow lines but trouble," the conductor warned.
Eric smiled at the concerned older man.
"I'll be fine."
Eric crossed the yellow lines into Dirty Town. He walked past dilapidated houses with shattered windows and busted front doors. Prewar cars with smashed windshields jammed the curbs. Eric walked an unkempt road littered with cigarette butts and empty food tins. He stopped to view a faded billboard of the Drike Emperor shaking hands with the Canadian Prime Minister. For the greater good, the caption read. Mangy cats chased desperate rats through alleys stuffed with overflowing plastic trash bags. Eric ventured deeper into the ruins. He passed the thick concrete dome housing New Vancouver's eight nuclear reactors. He paused to view over the dome at distant snow covered mountains. He walked another two kilometers and stopped at red barricades that marked the shield edge. He gazed through the transparent force field at bleached human bones lying on the charred earth. Deep shell craters scared the ground next to overturned rusting artillery. Electronic eyes attached to laser cannons positioned atop metal poles scanned the shield perimeter ready to blast anything trying to get in or out. Eric followed the red barricades to an underground parking garage. He stood at the street level entrance and shouted into the darkness.
"Any veterans in there?"
A ragged man with pus filled blisters covering his face crawled from the shadows with wooden blocks in his crooked fingers. He wore a tattered Second Corps jacket with grimy sergeant stripes. The diseased man struggled to breathe while he dragged his withered legs over the pavement.
"I am veteran," he gasped with a strained whisper.
Eric winced at the odor from the man's oozing wounds.
"What is your name?"
"Parker," he huffed.
"What part of Germany are you from?"
"Dresden," the desperate man answered but Eric surmised from his obvious Canadian accent that the man was lying.
A loud horn blast sounded behind Eric. A New Vancouver police van stopped ten meters distant. A firm male voice called to Eric over a roof mounted loudspeaker.
"Raise your hands over your head and don't move."
Eric complied with the order. Doors on both sides of the police van slid open. Four men dressed in dark blue uniforms approached Eric. Each officer gripped a black pump shotgun in his wary hands. The senior team member shouted at Eric.
"Where did you steal that leather jacket?"
"My name is Lieutenant Eric Blumenthal."
"I can kill right where you stand," the policeman threatened and aimed his weapon at Eric's head. "Where did you steal that jacket?"
"My father is Colonel Max Blumenthal," Eric replied. "I am a Red Hornet."
The policeman narrowed his eyes and barked to one of his men.
" Check that out."
The officer dashed to the van and radioed central dispatch. He rolled down the window and shouted, "His story checks."
The lead policeman lowered his weapon and walked toward Eric. The officer gazed into the young soldier's blue eyes and offered his right hand.
"My name is Peter Huber. Are you German?"
Eric lowered his arms and shook hands with Peter.
"My parents are from Cologne," Eric answered.
"Girls love those leather jackets," Peter said with envy. "How can I get one?" he joked.