2: No-Deal Depaulo and the Core Pirates
BOOK 2 in the Pandoran Age Chronicles AFTER "The Princess of Caldris". Winteroud Sole, Grizly Detective Hammerstein, and the lovely Officer Tokushima Continuing their Galaxy spanning sluething,the group moves on to wild outlaw spaces of the Galactic Core where underworld characters of ill repute contend with Mutant Marauders More
They were waiting for us when we dropped out of hyperspace, I could sense them then, a dirty little swarm, and sickeningly the most frightening thing was they had once been human.
Klaxons hammered my ears and my empathic senses were then overwhelmed-the strange Marauders minds, with their ugly snake eye stares hammering my mind, then the sudden tussle of twenty hard core air men their adrenaline and training kicking in with a slam.
"This is not a drill!" Coco-butter Parsons howled but the air men's boots were already banging steel, half of them at their guns.
We were sitting ducks and there were a dozen Marauder ships, easy. Particle beam fire slashed away at our ship, the KanaaFutura. The Marauders doubtless had never seen a Caldris Royal Navy warship here at the Galactic Core, even through their snake infected minds I could sense a huge wave of surprise come back as we took their fire and the mighty KanaaFutura rose through the maelstrom of ionized particles and maligned atomic clouds her guns announcing payback.
Nobody missed and the Marauder shielding, magnetized ore layered over their giant ramjets, began to strip away in a fireworks show such that the demonic, snaky victimizers were revealed for the devil they were, squealing and riding fire with the hellish super-massive black hole and its light-years of swirling accretion disk as their background.
Still, no one stopped firing on either side and we rode the streams in a twirling death volley of destruction. Hammerstein, impossibly, was cursing and longing for a gun port...
Three weeks earlier:
Hammerstein was now about to break protocol with the Royal police confidentiality.
At length the platoon of Rangers took up a nervous formation in the hold. Coco, Tokushima, and I stood to his side-none of us any more informed than the platoon at that moment. Something in Hammerstein's bearing changed; memories were flooding his mind and body now. Stances: attention, at ease, parade rest. His mind swept back through the years to a sun burnt lot and he was a ridiculously young recruit keeping his fingers and thumbs-just so-his heels and toes-just so-his knees bent in the slightest.
He walked up to the platoon, getting right in their faces, "Are you ASHAMED to be under the command of an old fart retiree like me who isn't even Navy any more? I'll give you a shot, right now, every last one of you city sissies, one after the other, and I'll injure your sorry selves before we go on the mission. Go ahead. The cameras are off."
There were no takers. He couldn't know, but I could. They all somehow knew he could take them, by force of personality, if not by sheer strength.
"Okay, good. You're smarter than you look. Now, since the cameras are off-and yes, I learned that trick in basic training, or I wouldn't have gotten my blue cord, I'm going to fill you in on the mission. In full, for real, and no cards in my pocket. You break faith with me, and you break faith with your platoon because what you are about to hear is not supposed to be told to you, according to my superiors. However, I am not about to fly in to harm's way with my superiors, but with you.
We are going to the Core. There are no recognized governments in the Core, only Warlords, Marauders, ghosts, and bones. We are The Law, the arm of the Royal family, Justice and Honor, and we now ride into the belly of The Devil."
The rush of pride that swept the platoon was like a wave of metallic hydrogen deep in a gas giants dark seas, lit with a million square miles of lightning; death before dishonor. Duty. Joy. Purpose.
"Now, I'm going to tell you why."
They barely breathed.