Rogue Survivors, #1-3, is launching on Kickstarter! We’re reaching for the stars, y’all. 😉
If you want a sneak peek of the book, here’s chapter one! Enjoy, and back the campaign! Back now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/angelarwatts/rogue-survivors-a-soft-sci-fi-trilogy
WAR OF THE FALLEN
Angela R. Watts
I’m the only survivor on the ship.
The terrifying thought repeated itself as I crept down the bright corridor. The blue lights led the way but nothing hid in the shadows and the halls had not changed: each door had a pad for security. I had tried a few of the doors and my palm and eyes were read and accepted.
I didn’t remember much that occurred in the past twenty-four hours but I knew three things: I was Marci Maxwell, an Earth civilian. And I was the only survivor aboard the Gold Chaser.
What I couldn’t remember was what happened to the crew.
I explored the ship, quiet as a mouse, with only a big ray gun as my defense. I remembered one of the shipments showing me how to use the gun before, when I initially joined the space pirates. I’d used it once to kill a man but had only seen real danger that one time.
I couldn’t remember what’d happened yesterday. Had we ambushed a ship and things gone bad? But surely, even if a fight had ended wrongly, there would be some survivors?
I slowed outside of the control room. Essentially the cockpit of the large spaceship, the control room was where Captain Thesle gave orders and steered Gold Chaser. It was always busy. Someone, usually Captain, was always at the helm.
I pushed my hand against the softly glowing pad protruding from the wall. It clicked and the door unsealed.
The helm stood empty.
I sucked in a breath. Not good. Captain was a big, smart man. How could he have been lost to some petty fight?
Stepping into the large room, I looked around for any sign of explanation for what happened. If something had happened, why didn’t I recall it? I had no injuries—and it took a head wound to lose memory, didn’t it? But I was fine. Just clueless.
I swept the room and froze in my tracks when I reached the captain’s chair. Dark red blood stained the gray fabric. It covered the chair and a puddle of blood sat on the floor.
Blood was bad.
And this much blood meant death.
Breath catching, I turned, gripping the large gun tighter. Something had happened. But if we had been overtaken, I wouldn’t still be here, would I? And where were the bodies? This much blood loss resulted in death—so where was the corpse? Captain’s corpse, I thought with dismay.
No bodies. No blood that I’d seen throughout the ship till this chair.
Maybe it was a nightmare.
The sound came from the unsealed entrance behind me. The sound came again, softer, more distant, as if something crept down the corridor. Heart racing, I moved towards the door, leaving the blood behind.
Maybe it was another survivor. Maybe it was Bumblebee playing one of his childish pranks again. Or maybe it was Sergeant with his old limp. But it didn’t sound like a bipedal pace; it sounded like something dragging across the metal walls, soft and slow.
I poked my head out the door.
The hallway was empty.
The sound stopped.
Okay, strange, but at this point, everything was all wrong. I held the gun close and moved back into the control room, this time sealing the door shut behind me. If something was on the ship, I didn’t want it sneaking up behind me. Then again, was locking myself up in the control room any safer? We kept supplies elsewhere. I’d starve in this room if I got trapped in here.
Calm it, Marci, you’re not getting trapped anywhere. Just figure out what’s going on, I reassured myself, stopping in front of the control panel. It was still alive: the ship wasn’t dead or placid. The holographic panels showed Gold Chaser drifting through space—but in a place I didn’t recognize.
I wasn’t a spaceman. Astronaut. Stardrifter. Whatever the people in the spaceships called themselves anymore.
I was a civilian. A criminal, in the laws of Earth and space, but I wasn’t exactly a skilled one. I was on the hunt for my brother, nothing more, nothing less. I had chosen the Gold Chaser because Captain saw potential in me—and my brother happened to be his best friend.
And in less than three months, everything I had fought for ended with this? Some sick chaotic slip up that landed me alone in a quadrant I didn’t know, on a ship I probably couldn’t control alone, with no hope in sight?
I said calm down, Marci.
I licked my lips and tapped away on the holographic screens. There was an explanation to what was going on. I’d find it. I checked the security camera footage first. It took half an hour to find the database and another thirty minutes to hack it—of course, the pirate hacker, Whiz, used the password to something inappropriate to secure the ship’s files, which I could only guess when I tried to think of jokes he cracked over the weeks I’d known him.
I clicked the camera files. Nothing. They’d been erased. All of them. I couldn’t find any footage to tell me what had happened. I considered trying to find and hack into Captain’s log, but I couldn’t find it on the ship’s database. He probably had a separate database on one of his personal devices, but he kept those in his quarters. My skin crawled. I could go to his room. But the sound in the hall…
I tried hacking into the camera’s live footage and discovered all of the cameras had been shut down. I couldn’t see anything on the ship.
When I first joined Captain’s crew, I had cared about nothing more than finding Isaac. And if that failed, then I would complete my List and die.
But Captain said he knew that Isaac had been taken and that we’d find him, one day, if we just kept moving up the ranks of the Space Guardians. Isaac had upset the wrong people—and the funny thing about pissing Space Guardians off was that they had infinite space to hide your body.
But Isaac was alive. I felt it. Captain had, too.
So I figured, maybe this was the Guardians. Maybe they set this up. Maybe they killed Captain and took the crew.
But then why leave me here?
And what was aboard the ship with me?
I placed the big gun on the panel nearby and watched the blinking yellow light move across the black holographic screen. Icarus was adrift in space. As if we’d been put here to die.
I ran a hand through my short hair. No security footage, no SSS signals, no idea where I was. When I tried to find my coordinates, the screen flashed red with the error code.
I eyed the comm system. I could say something and have it broadcasted to the whole ship—if there were survivors, I could tell them to come find me.
But if there were no survivors, and something else, something otherworldly was on the ship… I would lead them to me.
Otherworldly lifeforms were not something I had ever encountered. After decades of space travel, humanity had discovered life forms and society-ridden planets, some peaceful and some not.
Still, I couldn’t jump to the conclusion that something inhuman was on Gold Chaser, but it was starting to make me wonder. It was either the Guardians had some strange scheme to kill a crew except for one woman—or aliens. I groaned. This was just brilliant. How was I supposed to save Isaac now? How was I supposed to get out of this?
I squared my shoulders. Aliens or humans, whatever had done this would pay.
I’d make sure of it.
Fury steeling my nerves, I grabbed the gun and pushed the comm system button. Speaking into the small microphone, talking a lot of smack for someone 5’0, I said, “Whatever is on my ship, I’m in the control room. Let’s rumble.”
Gold Chaser was a large ship for it not to be military grade. That was how Captain rolled: the biggest, the best, and the wildest. He took mercenary jobs across space if he liked the people asking for help. He ambushed ships without thinking twice if it meant someone got a taste of their own medicine and his crew benefited from the risks.
I wasn’t Captain. I wasn’t reckless and bold.
I wasn’t Isaac, either. I wasn’t smart and cunning.
But right now, I didn’t have many options. I could try to travel the galaxies with Gold Chaser and have all the space I needed, but eventually, it would be hopeless. Supplies would run out. I could garden for eternity, maybe, but what kind of life was drifting in space? Not a life worth living. I’d rather go out with a bang if I could.
I climbed into the vents above the control room, at the edge of the room so if I needed to, I could flee quickly.
I held the gun aimed at the vent. A part of me prayed that shipmates would come through the door below. We could sit down over coffee and figure out what was going on.
But thirty minutes passed and not a single human soul came to me.
The creaking sound in the hallway did return, however, and this time it grew louder.
I forced a shallow breath. I’d helped the crew with jobs before: risky jobs where my life had been endangered. We’d fought plenty of people. Plenty of otherworldly life forms, too.
So why did this feel scarier?
And if I die here, no one will ever know.
I set my jaw and watch the doors through the vent slits. Already, Earth had laws against harming otherworldly forms. What if this was an alien? If I didn’t kill it first, it could choose violence. And if it did…
The sealed door rattled. A soft click followed—the hand pad had confirmed entrance. I tensed. Only crewmates could do that via palm and cornea readings.
Soft footsteps. A large white creature crept into the room on six spindly legs, a giant head looking this way and that. From the vent, I couldn’t see many details, but the monster moved like a predator and that was all I needed to know.
Screw the laws. They couldn’t arrest me if I didn’t get caught. And I was a criminal anyway. What did I care about laws?
The beast gave a low rumble, moving closer to the control panels. I bristled. Don’t miss the shot, Marci. I steadied the gun and squeezed the trigger. A bright blast of energy shot from the barrel and pierced the flesh of the pale monster below. Smoke erupted and the sickening smell of roasted flesh filled my nostrils.
Screaming, the monster whirled. I’d hit the base of its neck, failing to blow off its head. “Dammit!” I quickly fired again.
The reeling monster’s giant, buffalo-like head erupted. Black smoke and burnt pieces of flesh scattered. The large body dropped to the floor with a thud.
Shaking, I watched it from my perch above, waiting for it to wake again. It didn’t. After a few minutes, I crawled down, clammy hands holding the gun tightly. The monster’s corpse didn’t move. It was hard to move without a head, but you never knew about such things when you were in space.
I hurried over to the control panels. There could be more of the things on the ship. Now that I’d confirmed one existed, what could I do to avoid others if they were aboard? These things were big—at least three tons, maybe four. It could have easily ripped me apart if it’d wanted to.
But I’d avoided them for a few hours before, right? Maybe I could ignore the rest of them and carry on like normal. I pulled up the holographic screen, ears ringing. I could send out a distress signal—or try to—and alert… I stopped the thought. Alert who? Guardians? They wouldn’t offer aid to a criminal.
Captain had allies. I could try contacting one of them. What other choice did I have right now? Pilot the ship alone?
I typed in a name. Hit it. And typed in my message.
DISTRESS SIGNAL 003
ALERTING: CAPTAIN PYKE D’ANGELO, ICARUS
REQUEST: This is civilian Marci Maxwell aboard GOLD CHASER. The crew is missing. I think Captain is dead. Monsters aboard. I need help. Guess-timated coordinates are attached below. Please help me.
I fought tears, adding the coordinates which I didn’t recognize but floated on the holographic screen now, and clicked the big red button below the message.
Why did the coordinates pop up randomly?
Was someone else accessing the controls?
The holographic screen flashed.
I studied the monster again, the dark black blood covering the walls and floor, then turned to face Captain’s chair. And his blood.
I couldn’t lose. I couldn’t die alone out here. I couldn’t give up, even if Red didn’t come for me. Bracing myself against the panels, I watched the screen flash bright yellow.
DISTRESS SIGNAL 003
CONFIRMING: CAPTAIN KRISTOFER THESLE, GOLD CHASER
RESPONSE: Cap mentioned you, just hang tight and we’ll be on our way. kiddo. It may take us some time to locate you. You need to handle the monsters. Describe them.
What was there to describe? My stomach flipped but I grabbed the device from my pocket, snapped a picture of the corpse behind me, and sent it to Pyke. He responded quickly.
You killed a Reaper. Good news, those things don’t come in packs so you shouldn’t have any more aboard. But be careful. Can you hop on the line?
The line. I tensed but quickly clicked the microphone and it crackled to life. Pyke’s gravelly voice echoed in the speakers that I yanked onto one ear. “What happened to the crew?” he asked.
My heart lurched to my throat. I told him what I knew, which wasn’t much, and about the blood in Captain’s chair. Pyke paused for a long moment, then, “I’ve never heard anything like that. What was Kris hunting?”
“Isaac, my brother,” I mustered.
He paused. “Isaac Maxwell? I knew him, he worked with Kris sometimes.”
“He’s been missing for a year. I-I joined Captain a few months back to search for him. Kris said the Guardians had something to do with his disappearance.” My voice shook. I wished it hadn’t.
“Sure they were, everyone knows that.” Pyke sighed. “Isaac was onto something with his research and Kris’s crew helped him prove the Guardians are corrupt. Kid… I hate to tell ya this but it was probably the Guardians who put you off to space like this. I doubt they killed the crew.”
“W-what?” I stammered, sinking into a chair beside the panels.
“Crew is probably being detained and questioned. You being released like this is probably one of their freaky tests,” he said. “Not sure why they’d let you reach out for help unless this is a trap for me, but, I’ve beat ‘em before, so we’ll hope they take the hint and drop your case.” He laughed, a cold, cruel sound. “Sit tight. We’ll getcha and we’ll go after the others.”
The others were alive. Maybe. The Guardians had done this.
The information crashed around my head and I shuddered. “Freaky tests?”
“You hear the rumors, don’t you?”
I did. The Space Guardians performed experiments with criminals to progress science—but no one on Earth believed such things. I was a part of their tests now? Why? I hadn’t done anything.
Well, I was a space pirate, ish. And I had ambushed a few ships. And I killed a guy, but that was self-defense, and he had been a jerk.
“You there, kid?”
“Sorry. Yeah. I just… a lot to take in. You’re sure the crew might be alive?”
“Kris is a top-notch felon. They wouldn’t kill him.”
“But the blood…” And the door unsealing for the monster, they must have hacked the ship and done that themselves.
“A test, kid. They’re trying you.”
So had it been the Guardians that wiped my memory of the past day? For some experiment? “But they’re letting me get help now?”
“Who knows what they’re doing. But it’s gotta be them.” Pyke grunted. “Now, focus on surviving. I’ll update you daily, all right?”
“Pyke?” My stomach flipped.
“Is Isaac alive?” I whispered.
“Hard to say, honestly. Guardians are finicky. Might’ve killed him to eliminate the threat. Might’ve kept him alive for intel and leverage against others,” Pyke said. “For now, don’t worry about Isaac. Focus on yourself. You have a long fight ahead of yourself, whether they let you off the hook easily or not, but we’ll try to help.”
I glanced at the monster and straightened, jaw set. I clutched the microphone tighter. “Right. I can handle it.” If there was the slightest chance Isaac and the crew were alive, I’d do whatever it took to get them back.
“You got it, kid.” Pyke laughed. “I’ll send some basic instructions on what’cha need to do to handle the ship, just in case you need it. Try to sort things out fast. It seems like Guardians placed the Reaper on board, so keep alert for any more surprises.”
“See ya.” Pyke ended the connection.
I stood and stepped over to the Captain’s chair, looking up at the giant window that showed the beautiful, unknown galaxy. It was wondrous in its own dark and revoking way. Dangerous yet seductive.
For a fleeting moment, I understood why the crew of Gold Chaser chose this life.
For all its danger, the thrill of the unknown outweighed the weight of reality.
Maybe the life of a space mercenary wasn’t as hopeless as I thought. I didn’t think I would truly belong in Captain’s crew and now, nothing else mattered more than retrieving them all. As long as I had Gold Chaser, I could get everything I’d lost back.
And then some.
If the Guardians wanted to infest Icarus with monsters again, I’d show them who was boss.
If the Guardians wanted to take the lives of my brother and crew, I’d take revenge.
I turned away from infinity beyond the window and set my sights on the tasks at hand. Survive and destroy.
END OF SAMPLE
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