domingo, 19 de diciembre de 2010

Next Up...

The next publication on Smashwords will be a Four Short Story anthology set in the Urionverse. My idea is to include the following:

The Dark Wheel - spin the wheel and take a chance
Four Minutes - not a second more to save the world
Knight's Charge - The Wildwose with a twist
Eternal - everlasting life, but not as we know it.

There still could be a change as I'm in two minds about the fourth one.

Watch this space...

viernes, 17 de diciembre de 2010

ALOF - Chapter Two


Asmode's Lair
Spindle


The Artefact itself lay forgotten below the blood-stained throne. It was a curious design, resembling nothing more than the thigh bone of some medium-sized animal. At either end of the bone was a shimmering circular indentation and the body of the item was criss-crossed with a tracery of thin and strangely woven runes.

Demon-infested priests had tried to mould it to their will with the death and binding of souls to its purpose, yet it had lain inert, dormant until today. Now a faint vibration shuddered it. The thing shook ever so slightly in time to some unheard of tune and the air around it shimmered.

It seemed as though it hid itself from view, although it lay in plain sight, until an Ori slave passed by. She started with repugnance and swept it up with the rest of the effluvium. Then, she began her daily walk to the rubbish mounds heaped outside the main laboratory. There, she threw her bag of rubbish and the bone became hidden amongst a pile of rotting corpses.

Before she left, she could have sworn that she heard a haunting, yet somehow familiar tune, but the rough hand of one of the guards impacting against her cheek made her forget.

In the main plaza, Cormach stopped and listened. He too, heard the lilting tones and felt a strange yet irresistible drag on his consciousness. As K’san led the multitude out of the plaza, he lingered, his head tilted to one side. Another, gold-armoured figure stood by his side, pistol held loosely between his hands. When Cormach set off towards the main entrance, he followed.

Galleon
Uncharted Space



Walters stood in the centre of the control room and stared at his new hand. The fingers were an exact copy of human flesh and bone, but their metallic sheen gave lie to the effect. He was the embodiment of an animated temple statue; hair was made of thin slivers of metal, bones and vital organs had become redundant when his spirit had infused the construct. A simple thought caused the hand to reform into a metallic blade and he laughed in enjoyment at the responsiveness of Arshavin’s original design.

It was then he felt K’san’s call and answered. Now he had the next piece in the puzzle. Instinctively he replied, channelling his power through his servant. He could taste the taint in the warp and the familiar flavour of the decaying Shan. There was also the response from the K’ran trapped on that far-off world, and something new.

“Arn,” he growled, “we need to be leaving. K’san has found what he was looking for and it appears that our old friend Shan has followed him there.”

“You have some specific co-ordinates?” asked Arn, the only one who could see through the shining body to the essence beneath.

“Of course,” Walters said, “I will give them to you shortly. First though, go and wake Berbatov up. He would hate to miss anything, of that I am positive.”

Arn bowed and left his Lord to his contemplation. One thing was for sure, life was always interesting onboard the Galleon, especially when Walters was making up one of his plans

Asmode's Lair
Spindle


Cormach walked in a daze. The music filled his mind, sending bursts of bliss and pain in equal measure. He blundered on, careening from one side to the other with his ever-present golden guardian behind him. Ever downwards they went, until they reached a long dark corridor, at whose end shone a sickly red light.

They had reached the laboratory complex. Here the Master’s minions carried out his sick experiments on those tortured souls unlucky to have been chosen. Past glass jars holding body parts they walked, through rooms of half-completed monstrosities and birthing chambers, where K’ran struggled to break free. It was a riot of sound; screams, guttural cries, things which pleaded for a mercy which was never to have been their’s.

At last the corridor arced upwards and on unsteady feet, Cormach reached the horrid charnel pits. Here, failed experiments and the refuse of pain were left to rot and moulder. Without a break in his step, he trudged on. Bones broke beneath his feet, gore and excrement clung to him, but he went on.

Behind him, his companion waited. Pistol turned back towards the sickly light and the now whispering sound of dragging feet.

“You need to hurry up,” it was said quietly, yet forcefully and seemed to touch a chord in Cormach’s sodden mind.

The Ori reached down, into the horrible mess and drew one bone clear. There was a ringing sound of completion and a silver glow covered his hand where he held the Artefact. From each end of the bone poured a cleansing light. Two symmetrical shards burst clear, coalescing into rigidity and he raised his weapon high.

Creatures shrank back into the tunnel away from the cleansing fire. They were hideously deformed, neither human nor beast and their eyes shone with malice and hate. Cormach waded clear and stood by his companion’s side.

“Come,” he said and strode forward. His right arm swung rhythmically and the weapon became a blur. The shards seemed to flow together, producing a shimmering circle. On he went, a battle cry bursting from his lips and without pause he ran, straight into the monsters’ midst.

*

Arshavin’s constructs had reached the outer city now, and their beams of destruction struck deep into K’san’s new forces. He hurried them away, even though his only thought should have been battle. They were mostly unarmed, weak and wasted. There would be time to repay the slights and suffering they had been put through. Half of his men he sent to chivvy them on, the others stayed with him to act as a rearguard.

*

Shan knew that he was close. He could feel the power of the artefact and he had little concern over its current master. The demon-spawn had fled back to the city and he strode at the head of his twisted Immortals.

In front of them was nothing but prisoners and slaves, freed in the insanity of his attack. They would provide him with new followers in time, but first he needed to secure his prize. He was still congratulating himself on his success when brickwork and bodies exploded out from the main building. As the dust cleared he saw one man, a gold-armoured figure at his side and a silvery blur of light.


*

Lilith knelt before her Master’s throne, leathern wings trailing along the blood-soaked floor. Above them were the sounds of bombardment, yet here there was calm. She had not reverted to her normal shape as she felt the call of battle. As it was, she was but a pale parody of the being who filled the bloody throne.

“It seems,” his deep voice boomed, “that the tales of my brother’s avarice are true. How far he has fallen. I can taste each breath of his lackey here on my world.”

“Why do you not crush him?” hissed Lilith, “The death of his servant would be a clear message.”

“My Dear Lilith,” he rumbled in laughter, “that is your job. Even I would not flaunt the Accords.”

“But, My Lord...?”

“Enough!”

The room trembled with Her Lord’s rage and Lilith cowered. He was as close to a full Demon that one of the Tauran’s could be and still retain his own sense of identity. After generations of worship, he had climbed to the pinnacle of power, crushing and burning his enemies as he rose. Old, he breathed an arrogance which brooked no question, yet even so, Lilith felt he was wrong.

“You will do my bidding! This Shan comes for the Artefact, which even now sings its horrid dirge of death. Bring me its new owner and I will break him to my will, as I have done so many others. Shan you will ignore for now. Group together our forces and ready them for my signal. When the times comes we will send my brother a message, one than his disease-ridden spawn can take to him personally.”

This was more like it. Lilith licked her lips in anticipation; death and torture would stalk this world once more.

Her Lord stopped, sniffing the air with a strange motion as though questing for an elusive scent.

“There is something else,” his stentorian whisper still causing the bones in her chest to vibrate, “another comes...”

Lilith looked up, there was something in her Lord’s voice she had never heard before...fear!

miércoles, 15 de diciembre de 2010

Sudden Dearth III - A Leap Of Faith


As I am in the final stages of editing Book III in the series, I thought that I would give you all an insight into how it's going. So here is Chapter One of Book III...

Ori Homeworld

Cormach was angry. To be captured as easily as a newborn babe, whilst sleeping shamed him. He had been warned of the effect of excess, how it led to the Twisted Way. Yet he was young, over-confident and had ultimately paid the price. His nose wrinkled in response to the stench which wafted up from his unwashed and battered body.

They had taken a break and he sat in his and others’ filth. The rough chains and slave collar chafed against his skin. Runes ran along its length and negated his will. Not all, though. How he longed for the feel of his bow and blade in his hand. Then he would make these accursed Taurans pay. It was not to be though, his weapons lay forgotten on his homeworld, along with the shattered bodies of his kin.

The bestial grunts of his captors broke into his reverie and he flashed a hate-filled glance towards them. His time would come, yet for now he must wait.

*

Ships, bloated like flies after a carrion feed, rose from the burning remains of the Satellite colony. They had come to fill their bellies with sacrificial souls for their Master. It had been a good raid and now they left, before the Ori reaction force could retaliate. One by one they winked out of existence, the last leaving just as the first of the vengeful Ori vessels exited the boiling maelstrom of fold space.

Inside the lead ship, Lilith laughed. Her Master would be pleased. The forges and laboratories were waiting for these long-lived souls. The Artefact would be activated and their troops become unstoppable. Yes, it had been a good day.

Asmode's Lair
Spindle


The Ori had seen his brothers and sisters herded into the dark doorways, he felt their fear and despair. Still he did not lose hope. Their misery had been compounded by the treatment they received within the Tauran ships and then on the forced march from the landing.

He recognised that his moment had come when the foul beast turned on its handler. The chariot’s passage back through his people snapped his chains and he rose, calling to his brothers to help. They ran blindly away from the tangled mess of bodies.

At first they made ground, but soon heard the sound of pursuit. Cormach began to lose hope when he was dragged roughly into an alleyway and saw more enemies awaiting him. Surprise stunned him into silence as they were roughly manhandled to one side and gold-armoured creatures stood to meet the Taurans’ charge. It was soon over and once again he was a captive.

He was shocked when they were not mistreated, yet bundled into a large room above the streets. The armoured men parted and he saw a silver-haired individual approach. There was something animalistic about him, barely held in check. He reminded himself that he was a true warrior of the Way and stood to meet his fate.

The man signalled to one of the smaller of the armoured figures, who removed his helm and Cormach gasped.

*

K’san saw the quickly masked amazement on the Ori’s face. S’sral’s collection of allies had been indiscriminate and now it was as though the rescued alien looked into a mirror. The only difference was the snarling K’ran’s head tattooed on his colleague’s pale face.

“Tell him why we are here,” he said, turning away, “and be quick about it. We don’t have much time.”

*

Lilith was furious. She had been so close to perfection, when the idiot guard had spoilt everything. With a snarl, she withdrew her knife and slammed it into the cowering man’s chest. He at least would not fail her again.

“Loose the beasts!”

More K’ran were brought from a nearby building. These were smaller, lithe and deadly. Bred for hunting, they strained in eagerness to be away. Their handlers took them close to some of the mashed corpses and they snuffled at the alien smell. Yips of excitement told her that they had found the scent of the fugitives and they were set free. There was no need to follow quickly behind them. She was no longer interested in the capture of the Ori prisoners. Their deaths would suffice.

*

A growl interrupted Cormach’s discussion. He looked up and saw the silver-haired man’s face contorted in anger. His eyes blazed and he barked something at two of his men. They were quickly away. The Ori was sure he saw their bodies changing as they ran, but it could have just been a trick of the light.

“Stay here!” K’ran snapped.

Then Cormach was sure, as the human’s body rippled and shuddered. Before him was a growling, fur-covered beast. It snarled once and then leapt after the others.

High Orbit
Spindle


The craft hung silently above the planet. It was spherical in shape, silvered to the point of brilliance. One small red light pulsated, swishing round the sphere in a slow orbit. Without warning, it sped up. Now it blurred with its velocity, almost an excited and continuous line. A bubble in reality formed near it and a much larger ship winked into existence. The small craft whizzed upwards and a large black opening cracked wide, into which the tiny craft disappeared.

Master Arshavin sighed in contentment. It was as he suspected. Their mission was still alive and his new master, Shan, would be pleased. The time spent in study had not been wasted and the Artefact was still here. He bridled as the huge and pestilent bulk of a diseased Immortal brushed past him. Arshavin was lucky that he had no nose to smell the awful stench of Shan’s minion. It was bad enough that he could see him.

This one and his fellows’ presence on Arshavin’s craft, spoke clearly of the lingering mistrust in which he was held. Still, it was of little significance. He hurried to his control chair, sighing as he felt the surge of connection. Now he could carry out the first phase of his plan and perhaps at last be rid of the disease-infested Lord and his minions.

His commands were quickly transmitted and from the darkness of the open bay, silver forms emerged. They were larger than their tiny brother, cigar-shaped, but ending in a wicked point. Engines burst into life and drove them down through the unresisting atmosphere. Petal-like brakes deployed, slowing them, before falling away as their cargo bloomed forth.

Long, spindly arms flowed outwards from a diamond-shaped arm. They whipped in the self-generated breeze of descent for a moment, before realigning themselves into a streamlined shape. Explosively they struck the earth, burying deep into the tortured ground and destroying wilfully the horrid vegetation around them.

With a hiss and a groan they drew themselves forth, the trailing protuberances hardening into strong metallic legs. These clicked into life, drawing the diamond bodies upwards. Slender antennae appeared and twin red lights sparked. As one they moved forward, heading directly for the city in front of them.

Happy that his work was done, Arshavin sent his signal. Fold space began to boil and spat forth the Spiteful Dawn. Shan had come.

Asmode's Lair
Spindle


Lilith was lost in the anticipation of the hunt when the first red bolt struck the city, tearing its way through barely resistive rock. It was followed by beam after beam, which melted a path through the surrounding buildings. She heard her Lord’s mental scream of rage at the temerity of the action and his irresistible call-to-arms. She spat in frustrated pique, then ordered half of her forces to deliver their charges below. The rest she would need.

*

K’san felt the impact of the beams through his pads, yet his focus must remain on the hunting pack. They skittered around the corner of the alley, their claws losing their grip and he chose that moment to attack. He leapt from the shadows, one taloned paw crushing the first of the K’ran’s skull. His brothers joined the battle and the alley became a mass of snarling growls, rending fangs and tearing claws. Although numerically at a disadvantage, K’san and his men were much larger than the hunting pack members. They had also been imbued with their Lord’s grace and so the battle was short and bloody.

At last they stood, chests heaving. Beneath the unsheathed claws of each of them lay the bared throats of their victims, submissively stretched. Another volley of energy weapons crashed into the city and K’san paused, squinting towards the sound of destruction.

He lifted his claws and spoke, “Follow.” The now submissive K’ran rose and fell in behind him as he stalked away. It seemed that someone else had arrived to stake their claim and with much heavier firepower. He needed to think.

Drop pods continued to fall in a virulent wave from the sky. Shan had lost little time in disembarking his troops, the urge to kill was strong upon him. The world below was already tainted with the kiss of one of the Taurans’ demons, but he had a different embrace in mind. Within a number of the pods were special packages, humans infested with the blessing of his patron. Once on the ground, they would release their own kind of welcome to their warped brothers. It would be delicious.

Master Arshavin continued to cluck and scold his creations as they methodically destroyed buildings and razed ground. Beams of terrific force melted rock and evaporated any flesh foolish enough to place themselves in their way.

Shan could feel the call of the Artefact and this time, there was no semi-deity to stand in his way. Instead he could sense the presence of souls in torment and it excited him to think of the use he would put them to.

*

Lilith drove her bestial horde onwards. Her anger now had a target and she screamed in rage, the froth of madness spitting from her lips. She called on her Master and felt his power surge through her body in response. Ropes of muscle stood out as she swelled, wings burst from her shoulders, horns pushed from her head in an explosion of gore and she leapt free. Her whip crackled with energy and shimmered with an awful heat. A cackling joy bubbled from her lips as the long weapon licked out.

The first of Arshavin’s creations felt the touch of her weapon. Its caress scored the metal, leaving a trail of acidic bubbles. With a grown the limb doubled over on itself and the machine crashed to the floor. Behind, her troops fanned out. They too felt their Master’s benediction and changed.

*

Within the city and from the roof of his building, K’san watched the drama unfold. He was surrounded by his followers, new and old and they watched in surprise as he dropped to his knees. Arms wide in supplication, he called out to his Lord. A fresh breeze sprang up from nowhere, his hair fanning out in response.

The K’ran who had recently joined him fell to the floor, their bodies wracked with convulsions of ecstasy. Cormach too bowed under the pressure wave of love and concern which washed over him.

As one, they clearly heard Walters’ voice as it roared through their minds, “I come, my children, do not fear.”

K’san turned to face them, his eyes blazing with a peculiar green light, “Prepare yourselves,” he crowed, “our Pack will run again!”

*

On the battlefield, deep within the forges and laboratories and even in the torture and slave pits they felt Walters’ call. K’ran knew the Truth, Ori a blessing and hope which renewed them, and they fought.

Shan spat in rage and fury, urging his troops on. Lilith screamed in challenge, before wheeling away, her wings beating strongly to carry her back to her Master’s side. There, upon his blood-soaked throne, her Master dropped the Artefact in his hand as it burnt and scored his flesh. He struck about him in a hate-filled frenzy. His goal had been so close and now he must begin again.

*

Masses of K’ran and Ori poured from the exits of the building below and huddled together in the main square. Their faces turned up to feast greedily upon the silent figure which stood high above them.

“Come,” said K’san, “it is time to gather our people, ready for our Lord’s arrival.”

They followed him down, pushing and shoving to be at his side, Cormach the foremost of them. Now he could fight and he screamed his battle cry of old, and from below he heard its echo.

martes, 14 de diciembre de 2010

Christmas Cheer...

Really getting into the swing of it now - the tree is up, lights work, baubles dangling and I've even written my letter to Santa. I love how he always eats the cookie, drinks the whisky, lets Rudolph eat the carrot and leaves me a message every year.

Talking of messages, the Wildwose seems to be sending out the right one. More and more people are downloading it, and that is just on Smashwords. It gives me a warm feeling about how the anthology will be accepted. People are still downloading Sudden Dearth too. If you haven't got your copy - what are you waiting for?

More details on the shorts to come soon.

Watch this space...

lunes, 13 de diciembre de 2010

Next up on SW...


Well, having survived the terror of Christmas shopping on the weekend; mothers screaming at children, arguements over where the queue to pay starts, who gets the parking spot and of course the ultimate being the that guy with the white beard is so not giving me a kiss. Love it...

The next instalment for Smashwords will be a small short-story anthology. There will be three or four shorts, with the background being the Urionverse. This will include The Dark Wheel, Eternal and Four Minutes. All are a mix of horror and science-fiction, with some more horror than others.

They will hopefully be up in the next week or so.

Watch this space...

viernes, 10 de diciembre de 2010

Cover Art Works


I am definitely convinced that the art work is what snags the interest, especially for a digital site. The Wildwose topped over 100 downloads in the first few days, with plenty more page views. Okay, it was free, but I reckon that the picture sold the concept before anyone read the synopsis.

This picture attached was used for a story of mine called A Cold Dish. Again, it is set in the Urionverse, but tells the tale of cold vengeance and a man who like a violent storm follows his designated path, irrespective of the consequences. You can see the first chapter up on the SD facebook page notes. More to follow.

Watch this space...

jueves, 9 de diciembre de 2010

How do you choose?


Now that I am out there on Smashwords and the bigger world is just days away, I have been studying the competition, so to speak. One of the big questions I have, when I look at the multitude of offerings is - how do you choose? Is it the cover art? Is it the synopsis? What is it?

I personally have tried a little of both first hand on the free samples and have been both surprised and disappointed. The synopsis gives a small space, 400 characters, on Smashwords with which to hook a reader. I'm working on that for the next offering. The cover art for SD and The WW is awesome, so we have a winner there.

I was at a Book Fair this morning and started testing out my theory that the art attacks the eyes first and then the synopsis tidies up any doubts, and for me it works. Am I strange? You tell me. As an aside and perhaps a visual teaser, here is the art, courtesy of Diggory, which I want to use for SDII - A Guiding Light. which has been part-serialised on this blog. What do you think?

SDIII excerpts coming soon. Watch this space...

miércoles, 8 de diciembre de 2010

Oh, Happy Day - Apple here we come


Well, the rain in Spain actually falls directly on my house...guarantee it. Yes, I know it's not snow and it's not cold, but torrential rain stops a walk in the park, tapas and a cerveza sat in the sunshine...the usual stuff. Anyway, it does give me some time to write a bit more about how things are progressing on the self-publishing front with respect to Sudden Dearth and The Wildwose.

Great news yesterday that SD has been accepted first time into the Smashwords Premium Catalogue (just gotta love my wife for her many skills) and now will be available on Barnes & Noble, Sony, Diesel, Kindle and Apple. Amazon as well soon. The Wildwose should be no problem either, just time in the queue. So, I'm going global!

The next offering will be up soon, although I am toying with what it will be. More on this to come soon.

Watch this space...

martes, 7 de diciembre de 2010

I'm Contagious...Pass me On!



AS you delve deeper into the world of e-Book Marketing, you begin to learn new terms and methodology (see, I'm already using big words!). Apart from tag clouds which I learnt about yesterday, apparently today's lesson is all about going viral.

Now, you can imagine what initialy crossed my mind...careful, I thought we had entered one of my stories. Well, no, it's all about linking, sharing and passing on. Did that sound bad to anyone else?

As my first try, I decided to see what could be done with The Wildwose. It's FREE, is an interesting premise and hopefully people will enjoy the read as a reward for their eforts.

So...LINK ME, SHARE ME, PASS ME ON!!!!

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/32297

lunes, 6 de diciembre de 2010

Smashwords update


So, first day over and The Wildwose seems to be doing alright - over 200 page views and 50+ downloads. It has already helped provide some traffic for Sudden Dearth itself and so maybe a revisit of my strategy to short stories rather than a FREE novella makes more sense. Time today to think about it.

Oh, and if anyone needs reminding, you can download 40% of Sudden Dearth FREE as well.

Watch this space...

domingo, 5 de diciembre de 2010

Smashwords


An interesting statistic is that The Wildwose, since I put it up this morning, has been seen and downloaded more times than Sudden Dearth in nearly two weeks. Could it be that it's much shorter than Sudden Dearth and in our fast-paced world attention spans wander too...we're losing, again? Chris Hughton needs to put a rocket up someone's ar...where was I? Oh, yes, I personally think it's the great cover by Diggory, it sort of smacks you between the eyes with its awesomeness.

Anyway it's now on Smashwords at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/32297 and is absolutely FREE.

SALIGI will be following soon. Watch this space...

sábado, 4 de diciembre de 2010

The Wildwose Part II


So, woke up this morning feeling fine...sorry, too much coffee. The cover art, awesome work by Diggory Steele-Perkins, is ready and I posted it on the FB page. Checked some of the Sudden Dearth page stats and found that there are now 342 likes, 100 active monthly users and that there were 999 page views yesterday! Smashwords page views and sample downloads are rising.

Looks like the marketing is starting to work...but I need more readers, followers and connections so, back to the grindstone.

Watch this space.

viernes, 3 de diciembre de 2010

The Wildwose

Very near to posting The Wildwose on Smashwords - it should be available this weekend if I can agree on the cover art and pester my long-suffering wife to make sure I haven't screwed up the formating with my edits. As soon as it is ready, I will let everyone know.

As background, this was a short story wot I wrote a while back (apologies to Ernie Wise). A few people who got the chance to read this at the time mentioned that it would have made a great comic book...or it was something to do with a clown, anyway... I would be interested to hear what people think.

It is, like Euthan Palace and A Cold Dish, set within the Urionverse, yet at a time distant from Sudden Dearth. It was an idea started as a potential book, which then became a short story, kept for future reference. I think it works as a short story, but I'm biased, so would be interested to hear from you...yes, you at the back!

Watch this space...

jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010

Marketing SUDDEN DEARTH Part II

So let's see where we are...number one, write a great book (well it's written anyway), number two, write another one...what the! Oh yeah, got a couple more somewhere. Number three, maximise distribution - that is what I'm working on, but it takes time. Number four, give (some of) your books away for FREE. Check. I will be posting a short story and a novella for FREE on SW real soon, and anyway there's Euthan Palace, 26S, Urion's Belt...wait a minute, am I charging for anything! Crap, what's next?

Okay, calm down, number five is trust your readers and partners which I do anyway, so no worries there. Number six is have patience and seven is marketing starts yesterday. Sod it, I knew I was too late...oh yeah, see number six.

And last but not least, number eight, architect for virality. Well I can be as contagious as the rest of them, so we're set, no?

(Tips extracted from The 7 Secrets to e-Book success by Mark Coker)

miércoles, 1 de diciembre de 2010

Marketing SUDDEN DEARTH

This promises to be an interesting journey, as the fresh rush of viewers trails off from the initial page impact. I have spent some time studying various success stories, blogs with tips and even the Smashwords own marketing guide. Armed with my list I have begun...

It's opening up new skills today, as I learn how to link all of my preferred sites via URL either to here, or direct to the book page. Not everyone is standard so I now have a list of URL formats required by different places. Signatures on sites now include my link too. I have yet to stoop to begging, but that apparently is an option for the future!

I will give updates on here and my FB page on how I get on and am expecting the FREE copy of SALIGIA to help in the process. That is of course is someone likes it.

Watch this space...

lunes, 29 de noviembre de 2010

SALIGIA

I have just finalised the editing on a 15,000 word Novella called SALIGIA. In it, you will find a series of short stories with a common theme (The Seven Deadly Sins) and character. I wrote it as a device to introduce the Tauran Demon Pantheon, mythology linking the Urionverse and in order to link the stories within Sudden Dearth to the legend of Urion and his Belt.

SALIGIA will be published shortly on Smashwords and will be FREE. In this way I hope people who do not know the Sudden Dearth books will gain some background and an inkling of what they might expect pruchasing Sudden Dearth itself.

Just remember that SD is available right NOW on Smashwords and the link is:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/31175

miércoles, 24 de noviembre de 2010

Hooray!!!

At last, Sudden Dearth has been published on Smashwords. You can find it at:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/31175

A huge thank you to my wife for her formatting skills, and patience of course. Also to all of you who have been free with your advice, comments and encouragement.

The cover art, courtesy of Diggory Steele-Perkins, is awesome.

I can now say I am a self-published author.

Watch this space for further information...

martes, 16 de noviembre de 2010

Update

Here is an update on the whole Sudden Dearth Saga. Apart from the fact that it's my birthday, I've had a great meal, loads of pressies and am sat in front of the fire with an ice-cold Gin Tonica - chilling, big time.

So, SD is now ready for the big test. SDII is on the Editor's Table and SDIII - A Leap Of Faith is close behind. SDIV - El Juego-The Game is on a re-write as I didn't like where it was going, and the story needs me on board. I will begin posting SDIII here shortly.

As soon as SD is accepted format wise for SW, I will let you all know. Thanks for lsitening and those who made comments - it's all been helpful, and please keep up the process for the next books.

I will be back in the swing of posting very soon.

Cheers!

domingo, 14 de noviembre de 2010

Smashwords Part II

At last! Yep, I have finished the edit and last spellcheck, so it's an upload tomorrow and if no more delays Sudden Dearth should be up and running on time. Just need to make sure the artwork meets the necessary demands from SW in terms of title and size.

Once it's up, I'll let you all know. Next will be the turn of A Guiding Light, we'll see how long that one takes...

martes, 9 de noviembre de 2010

Smashwords

Well, my extremely long and drawn-out journey to publication on Smashwords appears to be almost here. My long-suffering wife has taken the formatting out of my hands and has done a much, much better job than my previous attempts.

So, for those who have kept the faith, I can truly say that before the end of the month, Sudden Dearth will be available on Smashwords.

Please feel free to sound the trumpets, clash the symbols or whatever is necessary to prepare a relatively unsuspecting world...

viernes, 15 de octubre de 2010

Update

This is a big thank you to those following this blog - we've cracked the 100 mark!

I also wanted to give you an update on the progress of the series. As some of you know, Book III of the series - A Leap of Faith - is now complete and Book Four - El Juego - The Game, is up to Chapter Twelve and is slowly taking shape. In SDIII and IV, there are new characters and some old favourites, who help push the action along nicely.

There is also a link on this page to the original story, Urion's Belt, which started this whole thing off. I will eventually get around to posting more of that, promise.

And for those of you who like Horror, you can use the link on this page to my other blog 26-S. It is a mix of Historical Fiction and Horror, set in the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and almost modern day.

Thanks again and keep watching, Chapter Eighteen of SDII will be posted shortly...

lunes, 16 de agosto de 2010

Chapter Fourteen

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


The silvery projectile left the Gauss rifle in a blur, rocketing through the control room and splattering part of that which was Magos against the walls. It did not, however, totally destroy what was fast becoming Master Arshavin once again. His many years of mutation and adaptation, had made him extremely hard to kill, and both more and somewhat less than human.

Whilst in his semi-machine state, he was still connected to all that was the construct, and he futilely tried to regain control. He was slapped mentally and watched helplessly, as the drone ships began to reform, their programming different somehow, as they blatantly disobeyed him.

He screamed as the last of his links were ripped asunder and once again, he was nothing more than one cast out ex-Tauran. Despair crashed in upon him, as his creatures disobeyed and rushed to do someone else’s bidding. All, though, was not lost, and as he braved the lack of atmosphere, his smashed control room and the less than responsive controls, he dragged himself to his survival pod.

Whoever had done this would pay, thought Arshavin, it was not over quite yet. Once inside the escape craft, he activated a sequence of keys manually, over-riding the ship’s own constraints and launching his lifeboat. It was no mere escape pod, his tinkerings over the centuries had seen to that for all of his creations. Sat cocooned in his new metal shell, he directed himself away from the remains of his construct, there would be time for a new Magos, something different and certainly less susceptible to destruction.

The Tower
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Marius was no longer quite human; the change process within the pupae had rebroken demon-twisted bones and grown new ones. The genetic pattern, held within the winged remains had been dominant over his remaining humanity and had burnt the tainted spores away. What now strode forth from the liquid remains of the pupae, was something much more; a new and improved version.

The circle of adoring creatures continued to croon encouragingly and Marius stopped, his head cocked on one side, as he watched them. His new eyes were bright, whirling with a myriad of colours and his movements were precise and avian-like. His hair was gone and a downy covering of feathers not only protected his bald pate, but had spread across his whole body, their rich blue colour striking.

His legs were long and spindly, seemingly too weak to support his upper body and its massively muscled chest. The need for such a powerful upper body was revealed as he stretched, and his creamy-white wings unfolded. He held them out to dry and croaked reassuringly at his watchers, who squatted patiently, awaiting his every command.

*

Shan ran, his putrid breath rasping loudly and echoing off the narrow-walled streets. Behind him came the last of his men and two of the newly converted undead creatures. They had not stopped to fight, rather as soon as he had heard Walter’s animals close by the Tauran Adept had fled. He had left his men behind and put as much distance between himself and the encroaching enemy as possible.

He could always create new troops, although the loss of his converted Immortals would hurt him, once he was clear. His Master needed him and Shan did not expect to let him down. In this the Tauran’s ego had taken over, demons cared little for their vessels and could easily find a new one.

On and on he ran, his heavy boots pounding against the ground, their beat echoed only by the scrabbling of claws by his side.

*

Viker and Johns led their squad into the central plaza at a run, claws unsheathed and teeth bared. Their accompanying soldiers quickly took cover, where they could and did begin laying down heavy fire against the remains of the undead forces. There were few now, as the creatures had decimated them to start with themselves being turned upon by Marius’ new allies.

This was not a real consideration for Viker, whose internal beast was free and hungry to kill. He and Johns leapt straight amongst Shan’s forces, clawed hands ripping and tearing. Their squad poured concentrated volley after volley into the outer edges of the group, bunching them in towards the centre and the violence awaiting them.

One creature spread its wings, ready to leap above the fray, and use its momentum to spear back down towards Viker. He did not wait, one clawed hand slicing through its rotting wing membranes and hooking it back to earth. As its hungry maw snapped towards him, a laser-round flashed by, striking it cleanly in one eye and blinding it. Viker saw Alana lining up her next shot, but didn’t wait, his jaws crushing bone as he finished it off.

As quickly as the melee had begun it was over, Viker and Johns looking almost disappointed. They looked up amazed at the explosion of creatures, as they arced out of the central tower, their calls angry and menacing. No time was wasted in circling, they simply banked, folded their wings and dived, a harsh screaming cry their only evident warning.

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Walters revelled in the control of the machine; it seemed to have been made specifically for him. As Arshavin scurried away, Walters did not feel the urge to pursue him, he was more engrossed in the study of that which had been Magos. Its enhanced sensors added to those powers he inherently held, refining them with the precise mechanical routines contained within the drones. He could also feel the link with the robots fighting still on the ground below, almost as though they were an extension of his body.

Slowly, he infused the drones with his essence, allowing the connection to strengthen, the fluid machinery to reform. There was no need for a control room as Walters and the machine became one.

*

Robots disengaged from the conflict without warning, their spidery bodies transforming and propelling them quickly away, leaving the ground forces bewildered with their withdrawal. This confusion lasted but a moment as Shan’s disease infected troopers resumed their manic attacks.

Berbatov had little time for the make-up of his enemies; he was more concerned about killing them. His timely arrival had changed the balance of the engagement somewhat, but was still to be conclusive. The fact that his own dead rapidly revived, to take part in the attack on the zombies’ side was a little disconcerting. However, ever the pragmatist, the big man just killed them again, this time permanently.

*

James had responded instantly to Berbatov’s summons and he and his men had pushed forwards, their tanks’ battle cannons blasting a molten path through their enemies. They were making steady headway, although the disappearance of the robots had freed more of theTauran forces up, and forced him to consolidate his position, before moving on again.

“Sir!” shouted one of his scouts, pointing to the mass of robots which had appeared once more on a ridgeline to the south of them. They stood silently, in a single line, apparently waiting for something.

“Oh Frak!” cursed James, as he saw what it was that had caused their vigil; a huge, towering robot, cast in the image of man, descended from the skies, retro-rockets slowing its descent in a flare of blue-white brilliance.

The thing was enormous, its burnished metal skin flashing in the sunlight as it lightly landed amongst its minions. It paused for a moment, looking down in apparent affection at the robots below and then began to stride forwards, its tremendous footsteps reverberating through the very earth. Its robots flowed along with it, to the front, side and rear they roamed, red eyes bright and malevolent once more.

The Tower
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Viker opened his arms and roared his defiance skywards, as the creatures plummeted towards him. He felt rather than saw his squad join him, professionally taking up their firing positions. The sound of power cells being changed and clicked into place gave him a feeling of reassurance and he howled once more, challenging his foes and telling his pack where he was, all at once.

By his side, Johns mimicked him, crouching slightly in anticipation of the coming fight. Closer came the creatures, Viker’s keen sight now being able to discern their distinct number and also identify one individual above all others. Its vivid blue was in direct contrast to the others midnight black. He could feel its presence, awakening a response within him, his muscles tensing ready to spring him towards his enemy.

Rifles were raised and targets selected, fingers tightening on triggers, but at the last moment, the precipitous dive was halted, wings flicking outwards to haul their owners upwards and brake their mad dash. As one they slowed, the back beat of their wings causing a physical stirring of the air around Viker, yet still he did not relax.

The blue-hued leader, for that was obvious, dropped in front of Viker, his wings folding gracefully against his body. There were no distinctive clothing or marks, a fine covering of feathers encased his body. Yet he strode forwards on his spindly legs, with an arrogance born of familiarity. John’s muscles bunched, in preparation for his leap, and the creature spoke once, dismissively.

“Not a good idea, Johns!” his voice was distorted by a strange clicking and whistling, the beak-like mouth not assisting speech to any great degree.

Viker tensed, there was something about the intonation, the command, and with this faint recognition he placed a restraining hand on Johns’ chest.

“Who, or what are you?” growled Viker, staring intently into the creature’s whirling eyes.

“I am, or rather I was, Captain Marius,” he seemed even puzzled himself as he continued with his strangled speech, “now I don’t know what I am. I need to speak with Walters urgently.”

“That would be Colonel Walters, at the least,” snarled Johns, still straining against Viker’s hand.

“Perhaps,” laughed that which had been Marius, “although I think we are more equal now, than ever before. Tell me, where is he?”

It was Johns’ turn to laugh now, “What? Captain high and mighty, don’t you know where he is? Can’t you, with all your power, simply just feel him?”

Marius screeched in anger and one clawed hand swiped towards Johns, but Viker parried the blow, leaping forward and kicking out, slamming the creature back.

“You will regret that!” hissed Marius, raising his head and screaming to his followers, “believe me. The lives of your men are now forfeit!”

“We’ve heard that before!” answered Viker, his barked retort accompanied by his charge, forcing Marius to unfold his wings and power himself skywards. He was just too slow, as Viker’s clawed hand hooked into the muscle of his left calf, snagging him and drawing him back down. Marius stared directly at Viker, ripped his leg free and then used his momentum to pivot and slash a taloned foot across Viker’s chest.

The comforting crack of laser-rounds, joined the roars and howls of Viker and Johns and the screeches of Marius’ creatures. No quarter would be given, Viker was sure that this was no mistake, there was something wrong, evil in this thing that had been Marius, and he could not let it go free.

miércoles, 11 de agosto de 2010

Chapter Thirteen

The Tower
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Darkened alleys, blackened doorways and the interminable dust of ages passed in review as Marius continued his tortuous route. The call was getting stronger; a pulsing beat in his febrile mind. There was an unspoken promise, also a need, yet Marius concentrated solely on the resonating ring in his head.

Time passed slowly; each drag, each fall brought him a little closer to his objective. He did not marvel at the intricate architecture, its whorls and circles, nor at the obvious craftsmanship, its taste not quite human. His route took him past a domed building, strangely carved structures peppering its walls. There was no pause to enjoy the innate beauty demonstrated there, only the desperate need to keep going.

Dust filled what was left of his mouth, his blindness had long ago turned into piercing vision, yet this heightened gaze saw only one mote of dust after another. Where he slid, no foot had passed in eons, his tormentors had obviously taken another route.

At long last he reached an open grating set low against the wall of a building. The metal tines were twisted and torn, their still sharp edges ripping at his flesh as he pulled himself through. As he fell down a steep incline, tumbling and turning, he only felt relief. He had arrived at last.

*

Shan ran on towards the Tower, his men following behind as best they could. He too took little notice of his surroundings, not because he was physically incapable, but rather because they were of no interest to him. The howls continued and were closing in, making him increase his speed. Those behind him were expendable and he wanted the barrier of their presence in between him and whatever was making that noise.

With a cry of triumph, he reached the central square, the Tower rising from the exact middle of the cobbled area. Alien statues sat at measured intervals around the outside of the plaza, but he only saw the immense circular shape thrusting skywards. Eight separate exits neatly split the otherwise continuous wall formed by the surrounding buildings and their shadowed openings promised dark and mysterious secrets.

His search became more and more frantic as he raced around the Tower’s base; all that faced him was a smooth and impenetrable façade. There was no door, no windows and he now howled in frustration.

From each and every one of the mouth-like exits came an echoing peal of noise and Shan span to face first one, then another of them. Vague, misshapen forms moved just at the edge of his vision and he called urgently to his men to join him.

*

Marius slipped and rolled, tumbled and fell for what seemed an endless time, his body finally slamming into a waist high wall and coming abruptly to rest. He scanned about, the expected absence of light surprisingly missing. A glow infused the area, highlighting the piles of skulls and other bones, haphazardly strewn before him.

Looking up, he saw a hole in what he assumed was the roof, a perfectly circular opening from which the light cascaded downwards. There was something else, hidden from his view by the wall, on a kind of raised platform, but right now he was just glad that he had stopped moving. The urge to crawl forward was still there, in a dull aching sort of way, but not as pressing. It seemed as though he would be allowed to gather his breath, to recover a little, as though whatever called him knew he would need all of his remaining strength for one more task.

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Viker heard them before he saw them, a clicking and scrabbling of claws preceding their appearance. He sensed Johns’ shared anticipation for the coming fight, his growl now deep in his throat, presaging the violent explosion of movement to follow. Darkness had yet to fall fully, but it would be soon in coming. Long shadows cast by rubble and hillocks covered dips in the land with night’s blackness and it was from one of these hidden areas that Viker had heard the tell-tale noises.

His squad had fanned out around Johns’ and his position, utilising whatever cover that they could find. All of their weapons were pointed towards the area indicated by the tense and straining figure of Johns. Unannounced, Viker saw a pair of baleful green eyes which caught the dying rays of the sun. Suddenly there were more, a mass of writhing bodies becoming slowly visible. His growl too joined that of Johns. Fingers tensed on triggers, and prayers were intoned as the monstrous creatures slunk out of the shadows and into the last remaining light.

*

The Tower
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Once more the urgent impulsion came and Marius struggled on mal-formed limbs over the wall. He slid amongst one pile of bones, which crumbled into dust as he passed. Clearing the wall, he sank into them, a cloud of powder puffing up at his passing. Laboriously he approached the centre, around which appeared a more clearly defined pattern of bones, as though someone had deliberately placed them there with some actual design in mind. They flared outwards in mimicry of two giant wings, arched as though suspended in mid-beat.

The previously rapid mutation of his body had slowed almost to a standstill, his bones still retaining a vaguely humanoid shape. Using clawed and twisted hands, he dragged himself up to the central dais and flopped onto its flattened upper surface. Before him was a throne, or that was what it appeared to be and resting upon it was a pair of bloodied wings, seemingly ripped recently from some creature, a red fluid dripping slowly down their length.

Still the call was relentless, drawing Marius’ broken frame forwards, ever closer to the stone seat and that which it held. With an overpowering compulsion driving him on, Marius finally reached the chair and raised one shaking and disfigured hand towards the bloody remains resting there.

*

Shan felt the moment Marius reached the throne and despair swamped him, as he realised he had failed. His link with the now half-mutated individual was still strong and when Marius’ crumpled fingers made contact with the eternally bloody flesh, he knew, deep down inside himself a long wailing cry sounded.

It was as if some playful god had stopped time, or at least let it play forward, but only frame by frame. A beam of light seemed to peek out of the Tower’s tip and almost shyly rise skywards. Little by little night became day, as the brilliant energy bathed the whole area. The Tauran Adept saw his men’s mutilated and rotting faces turn in slow motion, their howls of anguish coming forth only as deep bass moan. Spittle which flecked their decaying lips, fell, but only drop by drop, as though reluctant to touch the floor and break the spell.

The creatures which flowed out from the darkness, did so step by step, their wings tucked against their backs. They were all that was left of the great creature’s offspring and their hunger glinted manically in their eyes. Mouths slowly opened, betraying razor sharp teeth and their ululating tone seemed to go on forever.

All at once, real time returned and the noise of battle crashed in upon Shan. His people’s moans were neither pleas nor battle cries, yet they gave up their half-lives almost loyally in his defence. Short foreclaws tore at them, as teeth snapped closed on the undeads’ limbs and Shan smiled, his evil and lascivious version of a smile that is.

That which made up the disease which held the zombies to their pitiful version of life replicated, its new spawning ripping energy from its now dying parent. Almost gleefully, this spores burrowed their way into the creatures throats, and gums, wriggling into their bloodstreams and changing their allegiance in a less than complicated, but extremely effective attack.

Then Shan felt better, he saw his new minions turning to snap at their brothers and sisters, no longer interested in his death, but rather the prevention of it. He glanced once at the Tower and grinned, it was not yet over.

*

The instant his fingers brushed against the extremities of one bloody wing, Marius was lost. An electric charge shot down his arm and his body jerked rigid, and began to smoke with the transfer of what was an inconceivable level of energy. His already pliable skin began to melt once more and his mouth opened in a silent scream. In his head, he thought he heard a dry chuckle, but was unsure.

That which Shan had given him was burnt away, literally, flesh flashing into vapour, with the accompanying smell of charred meat. He could only hold onto the core that was Marius, that and the gift he had been given by Walters. It did not seem as though it could be enough, as bones began to be visible, beneath the remains of muscles and tendons. A cracking and shattering sound echoed round the chamber and he bent double as his spine split in two. Still his finger melded to the winged remains and yet more energy was discharged into his body.

His collapsing frame fell forward onto the chair, his chest now impacting onto its seat and the rest of the remains held there. Marius could not think, could not see and did not care, as the pain became his whole world. Like limpets, tendrils slashed outwards and stuck to him, sucking yet more of his essence and deflating what had become little more than a bag of flesh further.

At last, it was all one, a pulsing sack of bones, flesh and liquid, from within which Marius clung onto the most tenuous of holds on life. It began to solidify, lengthening and thinning out, bones re-meshing and limbs reforming. A translucent skin covered it all, and beneath could be seen a constantly moving liquid. The skin hardened, the form becoming rigid on the throne and the lights flashed and played against the pupae that now waited for rebirth.

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Viker watched surprised as the emerging creatures stopped and melted back into the shadows. He sensed rather than saw them turn and race towards the distant Tower and whatever called them. He and Johns, along with the rest of their squad, saw the gigantic beam burst skywards, and with no single word of agreement exchanged, they started forwards. The Tower seemed to be calling them too, and they still had a long way to go.

The Tower
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Looking fondly at his new creatures, Shan smiled, this was now going to be much easier. He could send these things to do his bidding, perhaps even one of them would be big enough to carry him? That though was a risk he would rather avoid.

Strangely enough, he began to hear more of the hooting and howling calls and wondered whether his luck could get any better. That was until the first of them swooped out of the sky and slammed into his recently won followers. He saw others take flight and launch themselves towards the heights of the Tower, their looping and circling motion almost a display of joy and love.

What was happening? Everything had been going so well and now? It was then he heard the unmistakable snarl of the accursed Walters’ men and turned to flee. There would be another day.

*

Inside the Tower, the pupae moved once more. Strange protrusions pushed and strained against the once more malleable skin, desperately looking for a way out. A small tear was formed, which widened and lengthened, fluid weeping out and dripping down the throne’s side.

One by one, the surviving offspring winged their way downwards, until they sat, hunched and expectantly waiting, like loving parents awaiting their first born.

Then with a tearing sound, the pupae split in half, spilling its contents onto the dais. The strange howling, hooting noise began again, this time quiet and restrained, as Marius rose from amongst the sticky remains.

lunes, 9 de agosto de 2010

Chapter Twelve

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


“I have brought you a gift, my Mas-s-ster,” the sibilent voice hissed, tickling at the corners of Marius’ consciousness, “it is the one respons-s-sible for our delay.”

“Excellent!” came the reply, this in a deep bass rumble, with hints of hidden pain and terror. Marius cracked open his eyes and saw the towering form of the Tauran Adept bending over him.

“Unfortunately, we do not have the time to indulge ourselves right now. You will bring him with us,” said Shan, an evil grin splitting his face, “but before we leave, I have something for him, a taster shall we say…”

A huge gauntleted hand moved to cover Marius’ face, the contact cold and clammy. After a moment he felt a liquid touch running towards his now tightly closed eyelids. Whatever it was would not be stopped, and the liquid seeped through, burning his eyeballs and bringing a terrible scream to his throat. The pain was excruciating; infiltrating his body violently, driving like sharp spikes further into his skull. He prayed, his teeth clenched against the pain, and felt a response, a burst of energy. Just enough to bolster his weakening defenses and stop the onward push of the demon-induced infection. It was not beaten, only held at bay, its tendrils now dispersing throughout his weakened body; although his brain, his soul remained intact.

“Look!” laughed Shan, pointing at the changes to Marius’ face and body, “He receives our Lord’s blessing and will follow us willingly. I do feel some resistance, still, but no matter we will deal with that when we have more time. Let’s move!”

Utterly subservient, his remaining force of Immortals and zombies, followed him, Marius dragged along behind, his body twisting and bubbling under the onslaught of the demon-blessed disease. Although outwardly, he was now one of them, inwardly, at the very core of his being he continued his struggle, holding onto the thought of Walters and the rescue, he knew would eventually come.

*

Split and broken bodies lay all around Viker; their heads separated and crushed, the undead never to rise again. Chest heaving, Viker looked down on the crumbled form below him, clad in a Church uniform. He had been mistaken, this was not the one he had been tasked in saving. It had been no decoy, the Tauran forces could not have known of his objective, no it was a simple mistake and the responsibility was totally his.

His enhanced hearing picked up the arrival of his squad and he turned to face them, recognising the thinly veiled terror in some of their eyes. He ignored it, they would, if they were worthy, also receive their Lord’s blessing in time.

Johns came forward, delicately stepping around the rotting body parts, approaching Viker.

“It is not him!” growled Viker, kicking at the body with one foot, “he is still out there somewhere.”

“We’ll find him, son,” responded the non-com, “of that you can be sure.”

“You did not change?” asked Viker, seeing Johns still in his human form.

“No,” replied Johns, “I needed to stay in control and guide the squad, no matter how much I wanted to join you. There will be time enough for that, later.”

Viker raised his head and sniffed, tasting the air, “We must move!” he barked, “They are close to the city and I smell something of our target. Strange though, it is not quite him, it’s tainted somehow.”

“We will clarify everything once we get there,” and then turning to the rest of the waiting squad, “Let’s get going, we still have a job to do!” he roared.

Although he took the lead, this time Viker did not race ahead, they would need all of their forces intact once they reached the city, of that he was sure.

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space



Arn chuckled as he saw the drop pods deploying from the Spiteful Dawn, you could always count on Berbatov to find a way. His penchant for fun was well known, and his idea of enjoyment was simple and direct. Fighting and killing, in his Lord’s name of course, were two of the foundations of his reason for being.

Surveying the remaining Tauran vessels, he saw little in the way of threat. It appeared that they were content to wait for further instructions, but Arn himself had other plans.

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Shan halted his party on the outskirts of the city, studying the darkened and recessed buildings amidst the rubble and destruction. He could feel the pull from the central tower where his prize awaited him, yet he was reticent, in an almost childish way frightened of the dark before him and what it might hide. Cursing at his own foolishness, he strode ahead, the thump, drag of his undead followers echoing off the walls around them.

They stopped once more, abruptly, as an almighty howl reached them. Shan recognised the call of a hunting beast to the rest of its pack, someone or something was close and they needed to hurry. Even so he hesitated, subconsciously waiting for something, and then he had it, as other howls were heard, transmitting their own hunger and anticipation of the kill.

The Tauran leader urged on his followers, he himself picking up the inert Marius’ form and slinging it across his shoulders, before breaking into a shambling run.

*


Magos was confused, he was hearing voices, something that perhaps had occurred to him before during his own isolation, but never with such clarity, nor a barely concealed feral undertone. Due to his nature, he loved control, and he was definitely now not in control of his body or even his own thoughts. His rapid descent halted and he hovered, trying desperately to understand what was happening.

“Feeling a little uncomfortable, are we?” said the voice, interrupting his febrile thoughts.

“W-who are you?” asked the egotistical being, fear vibrating in his own voice.

“Ah, well we’ll come to that in a moment,” replied the voice dismissively, “however, right now we need to get one thing straight! I’m just a little bit upset with your behaviour, this killing of my people has to stop. If you agree, like a good boy, to behave, I might just let you live, if not…”

“You do not dictate to Magos!” was his roared reply, his limbs once more struggling titanically.

“Oh dear,” came the calm yet disappointed reply, “I somehow knew that would be your response.”

Once more, Magos, felt the possession of his body begin and there was nothing that he could do. His right articulated limb, turned back upon itself, the open muzzle of the Gauss rifle situating itself ominously in front of his control room. Power began to build and he knew what would follow.

At the last moment, the arm twitched and the super accelerated slug slammed into his shoulder mounted missile launchers, exploding them off the construct and tearing tonnes of armour away with its passing. There was no pain as such, only a deep sense of loss, as connections were separated irrevocably.

“Ooops!”
came the voice once more, a deep chuckle accompanying the comment, “Let’s try that again shall we?”

The arm moved slightly, positioning itself centrally and Magos tried desperately to assume a semblance of control as the induction field resolutely charged the next shot.

*


Viker heard the howls too, they had a hooted overtone and belonged to none of his brothers. He itched to break free of his slower comrades, but would not do so. It appeared that there was something else out there, and by the repeated calls more than one of them. Hunger played through the voices, that and the pack nature of their calling restrained him. It was obvious that Johns had noticed it too and Viker sensed the moment when he gave free reign to the beast inside him. This was going to be bad and Viker dropped back, to stand beside the now transforming Johns.

*

Nothing they could do slowed the plague-driven Tauran forces, their numbers swelling as fallen soldiers were reanimated. James and a fighting core of men had fallen back onto the staging area, where a ring of tanks waited. The roar of their battle cannons was ceaseless, obliterating the undead, the only way they could effectively reduce their opponents’ numbers.

It was then that the dripping and cursed drop pods screamed to the earth, boring into the ground with their terminal velocity enriched speed. The usual disregard for their minions was apparent, as the pods flattened zombies and crushed Immortals equally.

Major James raised his voice in prayer, he knew that this was going to tip the balance of the battle, and not in their favour. Pods began to deploy their contents and he ordered the tanks to advance, his wavering men following.

A familiar roar came from the middle of the Tauran ranks and James slapped the side of his helmet, in an attempt to clear his head of its obvious delusion. Then it came again, “What are you waiting for, Jimmy?” barked the voice loudly in his ear via his private circuit, “You’re going to miss all the fun!”

*

Marius’ tortured body awoke and with it came the realisation of his own torment. His skin writhed beneath the onslaught of the virulent disease; warts, boils and sores formed, died and reformed. An unending fire traced across his nerve endings as flesh liquified and bubbled. No longer limply held by Shan, he struggled madly to be free yet the Tauran Adept held him tight, enjoying the sounds of pain screeching in his ear.

Deep within him, he was still Marius and struggled to remain so, holding on to his faith in Walters. Each new attack of the rancid virus was repulsed and he maintained his self, yet the cost was terrible. Outwardly he was no longer human, his face ran like wax, eyes dripping down his cheeks. There was no sight left and his misshapen mouth moaned in agony.

One massive shudder wracked his frame and he slipped out of Shan’s grasp, as his very bones became porous, then fluid, before hardening once more in a weird parody of the human form.

The Tauran looked down at him, before grunting dismissal and racing once more towards the tower. There was nothing that Marius could do, but lie there, his body pooling on the floor at one moment, then twisting into a mutilated design in another.

His mind raged in frustration and he felt himself connect with something, it was not Walters, but like him in an undefined way. It drew him on, calling to him and in a half drag, half fall, he slithered his way towards it.

jueves, 5 de agosto de 2010

Chapter Eleven

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Arshavin watched carefully as his two drone ships moved alongside and then gave the override command. Positioning his vessel correctly, he initiated the transformation, feeling the twin clunk as the drones docked, one from above and the other from below.

His evil grin spread wider as his integrated connection expanded his vision and he laughed delightedly as the power surged through his brain. Taking only a moment to enjoy the enhanced sensation he set to work.

All three craft were in themselves singular robotic entities, but when joined and with Arshavin himself acting as their brain, they became something all together different. Their own elementary thinking processes were superceded by that of the Master Craftsman and in turn his sensory perception was magnified immeasurably. He was the newly formed mechanism, and its response time was only limited to the speed of Arshavin’s each and every thought.

Connections split and reformed, metallic structures flowed and joined, the ship’s entire structure being converted in the process. It was, Arshavin knew, driven by his ego, but he had always thrilled in the moment of achieving the final configuration. Once complete, a humanoid shaped construct would remain; its movement a parody of all those things that were recognised as normal and correct. It could operate here in space or down on the planet’s surface, its demeanour titanic, in every significance of that word. The Master Craftsman had never really rid himself of the yearning to walk once more through the hallowed halls of his childhood, and this desire still subtly influenced his actions.

In one supreme moment of exhilaration he sensed his completeness, metallic arms raised in triumph. With a savage delight, Magos ignited his engines and powered towards his enemies.

*

“What are they doing?” asked Arn of Walters, watching the arrival of the drone ships and their subsequent docking with Arshavin’s craft.

“Something unexpected,” replied Walters uneasily, “and it concerns me that I can feel nothing of it.”

Arn looked at him in surprise, “My Lord, you feel nothing?”

“No, Arn. They are machines, not living breathing things. There is no soul, no thoughts as we know them and no emotions either.” Walters concentrated harder, “However, that which controls them still has a vestige of humanity, however small and perhaps ……. Shields!” he roared, his arms spread outwards as though he was personally holding back an imminent attack.

Instantly Arn responded, increasing the capacity of the defensive shield to full, as an immense beam of energy struck, trying to tear its way through.

“Where did it come from?” asked Arn, calming slightly as he saw their defenses hold.

“Magos!” hissed Walters angrily, his body beginning to glow with its characteristic green energy. Eyes flashing, his voice now thunderous as it screamed its challenge, Walters disappeared from the control room, leaving his astonished crew behind.

*

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Marius lay quietly on the earth, near to where his seat had landed. The retros had kicked in, but his landing had not been pretty. Involuntarily, he groaned as he tried to move slightly, there was obviously something else broken apart from his left arm.

He had seen the Tauran’s craft crash and knew that it was close. It was imperative that he kept still and not attract attention, but it was not easy. Suddenly, he heard the crunch of nearby footsteps and bit his lips as pain washed over him once more. If ever he needed Walters it was now.

*

Viker felt the contact established with Walters and the towering anger consuming him. His Lord’s touch was not gentle, it held the barely controlled savagery of the beast he fundamentally was. The blessing felt more like a slap than a caress, as though it was perfunctorily given whilst Walters dealt with graver matters.

Stiv was not hurt by this, who was he to chastise Walters? He simply accepted the gift of power, his muscles writhing and changing, becoming thicker and stronger. His face too changed; his features coarsening, broadening, his mouth becoming muzzle-like and the howl that left his throat was more like a bellowed challenge.

Johns watched him and smiled, forming up the squad around him. Now they would see why he treated Viker so differently and they would learn what their Lord’s touch could truly bestow upon them.

With a single bound, Viker cleared their defensive position and raced towards the still firing robots. Lips pulled back in a feral snarl, claws flashing as he ran and with a constant growl deep in his chest, he raced towards the kill.

*

A graveyard stench was what first alerted Marius to the nature of those approaching, that and the evil cackling echoing around him. His frantic attempts at movement only brought greater cries of pain and made the level of laughter increase. The smell grew stronger, almost insupportable and, as a leering, rotting visage stared down at him, he screamed in terror.

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space



Magos was pleased, his enemies showed fear and that was good. He raised his right arm and the Gauss rifle he bore within it vomited forth silvery steel slugs, their hyper velocity slamming them into and through the fighters opposing him. Shattering cockpits, tearing through metal as though it were paper and sending his foes to a timely and excrutiating death.

A maddened giggle racked his titanic frame as he punched forth laser pulses, missiles roared from his shoulder mountings and plasma spat from his mouth. Nothing could stand against him.

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Marius looked up into a face from hell, rotting flesh hung loosely from the facial structure of the creature above him, a green mucus plopping softly onto his forehead.

“Yes-s-s-s,” hissed the zombie contentedly, one clawed hand reaching down to grasp a handful of Marius’ hair, “Shan will be pleas-s-sed.”

Gagging on the smell of putrescent meat, Marius tried not to scream as he was roughly dragged away. He could not turn to see where he was being taken, it in fact took all of his will power to remain conscious, as wave after wave of pain rolled over him.

His left arm hung slackly by his side, each bump or bounce sending razor sharp pain coursing through his nerves. All he wanted to do was die, it seemed as though he had been forgotten about and he knew that he did not have enough strength left to continue.

There was an ear-splitting growl, a sickening bursting sound and he thudded to the ground, blackness folding him in its comforting embrace.

*

Viker had left his squad far behind, their valiant efforts to keep up with him, were simply not enough. He leapt into the middle of the robots, slashing and biting, metal shearing and crumpling before him. Once through he continued onwards, an inner geas driving him onwards.

Clearing one small ridged area of ground, he saw a group of undead, led by one of the Taurans, toiling onwards, a body being unceremoniously pulled behind them. With no thought for the consequences he jumped straight down into the middle of them, his howl echoing all around.

A slash of his right claw stove in the half decayed head of one of the zombies, that of his left ripped through the Tauran’s chest armour and still he struck. He was a whirlwind of retribution, the stricken human body was forgotten as he revelled in his savage bestiality.

An army could have appeared and Viker would not have cared. This was what he was made for; to fight, to maim, to kill in Walters’ name.

*

James and his men were not faring as well as the others. Shan’s forces had landed right amongst them, Taurans leaping forth from drop pods and dealing death, and spreading disease that made men only wish for death.

The mere touch of a hand could transmit flesh-rotting illness, a virulent breath could melt armour and bone and still they wielded more conventional weapons. That is weapons that appeared to mirror normal patterned design, but whose muzzles leered as they spat forth explosive rounds, weapons that did not whirr or grind but laughed and chittered.

Helplessly James watched as his men were literally eaten away, to lie dormant for a few heartbreaking moments, before rising to join their undead brothers.

Tanks roared and spat forth the cleansing flames of liquid fire, holding the enemy forces and giving James time to regroup. He heard the welcome snarl of fighters as they raced across the battle field, raining a final death upon the tainted masses below. His troops slowly reformed ranks and volley fire rolled outwards.

They were not winning, but they were halting the followers of the Tauran demon. Their job had been to reinforce Krantu’s thrust for the city, but that was an objective well beyond them at this time.

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Augmented eyes studied the battle in space and compared it with the destruction being waged on the ground below, and Magos made his decision. Engines blasting flame, he fired himself down towards the planet’s surface, laughter bubbling through his brain. His speed increased, the heat from his entry into the planet’s upper atmosphere doing nothing more than present a slight nuisance. Multiple targets appeared on his long range scanners and he shook his arms in excited rage.

*

“Arn!” Berbatov’s voice cut sharply into the ex-Immortal’s private circuit.

“Have you taken the ship?” asked Arn, watching the huge robotic form’s mad dash towards the planet’s surface.

“Of course,” replied the Sargeant matter-of-factly, “Now what?”

“The battle seems to have changed,” replied Arn, studying his data feeds for any sign of Walters.

“Oh?” queried Berbatov, “So now where’s the fighting?”

“Down below,” replied Arn, “and Walters has gone missing!”

Berbatov laughed, “He’ll turn up. Your job is to work out how you get me and my men into the battle.”

“Not my most urgent worry!” snapped Arn, his screens filled with information on the pounding that their forces were taking.

“Fine!” said Berbatov, his voice sounding somewhat petulant, “I guess, as usual I’ll just have to take care of it myself!”

City Approaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


There was a strange sensation filling Magos’ circuits, one which left him feeling anxious. The construct that he was started to shudder, weapons blasting their charges into the air and limbs shaking uncontrollably.

This was intolerable and the man-machine began a rapid self diagnosis, checking routines, confirming processes and all done at an incredible speed. Magos began to feel disconnected, as though he was being torn away from the essence that was he.

At last, with one final tremor, he felt control return and resumed his deadly course. As he approached the battle field, he started to power up his weapons systems, his anticipation rising with each surge of energy, until he felt that he could no longer hold it in. Screaming his own battle cry, he let them have everything, but nothing happened. He tried again and again, yet he was blocked, his ability to reach the all consuming orgasm of raging power forestalled each and every time.

Then he heard a small, yet clear voice ringing through him, “Hello Magos, you forgot about me!”

martes, 3 de agosto de 2010

Chapter Ten

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space


“James!” shouted Walters as he checked the position and deployment of his new enemy.

“My Lord!” responded James, breaking off from his conversation with Arn.

“I want everyone in those transports on the ground as quickly as possible. Make sure it happens,” and then seeing James’ hesitation, “right now, Major!”

“And what about you my Lord?” asked the Major, obviously concerned.

“I think that I can take care of myself,” replied Walters, a grin on his face, “and anyway, Berbatov is no doubt already well on the way to removing the Tauran’s threat. Thank you for your concern, now please can you do what I’ve asked?”

Nodding, James was already scurrying on his way towards the launch bay, his mind engrossed in his new problem.

“Okay,” said Walters, turning towards Arn, “let’s take care of these robots, shall we?”

Spiteful Dawn
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Berbatov was not in fact on top of the Tauran problem; their arrival had been a real surprise and initially they had made huge advances, easily slicing their way through Shan’s undead army. Now, however, things were just a little bit stickier as the plague infected ship itself turned on them.

Corridors melted and changed, catching Berbatov and his men unawares and revealing new pockets of enemies, this time led by the newly converted infectees. This in itself did not give Berbatov undue pause, but when vile and viscous fluids spat from the walls, hissing and burning against armour and boiling flesh, he began to lose his patience.

Walls which already had appeared diseased now seemed to enter into a new and deadly virulence as boils and pustules grew and erupted, showering over the unsuspecting soldiers. Webs of a tarry black phlegm spat outwards and stuck, allowing the zombies and their masters a more easier target. All of this was evilly coordinated in order to inflict the maximum damage.

Green eyes flashing, Berbatov’s normally bellicose nature had reached new heights and his rage took over. Instead of waiting for his enemies to show themselves, he began to strike indiscriminately at the structures around him. His halberd sliced cleanly through the putrid miasma facing him, the ship shuddering in response.

With a snarl he opened a portal, revealing one infected Immortal and a group of his undead followers. Powering forward, his weapon as light as a feather in his hands, he took his revenge. The Immortal’s corroded armour could not withstand the force of his blows, huge rents and holes appeared with each strike, the stench of death hanging heavy in the air.

The fact that they had visible targets also seemed to energize his men and explosive rounds flew, weapons sang and they killed in the glory of Walters’ name.


Outer City
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Viker and his fellow soldiers were pinned down, but were at least holding up the robots as they pushed forwards. The Eyatolian armour was laying down a ferocious barrage, smashing articulated limbs and pounding silvery bodies. They were taking casualties though, and with each passing moment more of the infernal machines appeared.

Walters’ men’s objective seemed no closer and their frustration was mounting.

*

“Our mission is to provide covering fire and also to prevent any of these creatures from reaching the tower,” explained Marius over his radio circuit, as he calmly destroyed the falling drop pods, “the more we take out, the less our boys have to deal with down there.”

He and his Wing were damaging severely the robots’ reinforcements, each sweep, each pass they coldly and clinically blew apart more of the constructs. Perhaps it was not the most honourable nor satisfying task, but having seen the potential damage the robots could cause, he certainly felt justified in his work.

*

Major James and his men had begun their deployment, the first of his troops were down on the ground now, using the pinnace as their homing beacon. He had forestalled the idea of drop pods and instead had decided upon the slower troop transports; what they lacked in speed, they made up for in quantity.

Even now, the first of his men and armour were on their way to join Krantu’s advance forces and he was beginning to believe in their probability of success.

*

Shan himself had decided to lead his forces in their assault on the city below. With no thought for any potential losses he may incur, yet rather thinking only of victory, he had used every means within his command to get his men on the ground.

The disposition of the robotic soldiers and Walters’ men were of no concern, he had sent sufficient troops, or so he thought to take care of them. No, his one and only priority was to take the tower and recover the object his Master had so clearly expressed a desire for.

Grinning evilly, he saw the first of his troops smash to earth and engage his enemies, whilst his craft raced towards the tower itself.


Spiteful Dawn
Diadem
Unassigned Space


The breach Berbatov had carved out of the disgusting walls of the corridor, proved to be extraordinarily useful. Where his halberd had touched, the ship’s reaction was to draw away. Festering wounds became cleansed and the now corroded metalwork once more appeared. This brought a steadiness to the previously revolving scene of conflict.

Leading his men forwards in a concerted rush, Berbatov smote the foulness of his enemies. His men followed, pistol rounds exploding already rotten chest cavities outwards, melee weapons tearing through disgusting limbs and once dead Churchmen, stayed dead. That still left the transformed Immortals to deal with, and Berbatov took that fight personally.

Each time one of them appeared, he would hold back his own men and stride forward, his halberd whirling with blinding speed. Cuts from their infected weapons did not heal fully and even began to suppurate, but the big man ignored them all. His blade and its cleansing energy struck and smote, cut and cleaved. Fountains of pus-filled gore sprayed through the air, bloated flies withered and disease ridden bodies fell.

Shan had misjudged the ability of both his men and his ship and in leaving them to face Berbatov alone, guaranteed their demise.


Outer City
Diadem
Unassigned Space


James saw the lone craft as it roared across the battlefield, a black trail of smoke blooming from its rear. At first he thought that it was damaged, that either Krantu’s forces or even the robots had struck it. This changed though as he saw the inky cloud fall to earth, its tendrils reaching out to consume both robot and man where it touched.

He saw shiny metal instantly turn a rust-brown colour, before crumbling into dust. Men melted in front of his eyes and it was then he realised that the foul craft was in fact intact, healthy even, but clearly a carrier of the diseased and twisted health that a demon-follower was blessed with.

The Major was too far away to do anything more than watch, but just when he thought that they had failed, he saw three dots appear high in the sky. Their indistinct shapes firmed up as they raced forward at an incredible speed, bearing down on the Tauran craft. They were delta wings, and James’ spirits lifted as he realised that all was still not lost.

*

Marius and his Wing had quickly ascertained the disposition of enemy forces and were powering their fighters forwards to aid their embattled troops. It was then that the Captain noticed the lone craft as it streaked towards the city and the tower itself.

“Okay boys, you go and help our guys out,” ordered Marius, his eyes still fixed on what he now thought of as his prize, “I’ll take care of our infectious friend.”

His Wingmen waggled their wings in response and peeled away, transmission via his command circuit reassuring him that the rest of his Wing would soon join them. Wasting no time he increased the power to his engines, quickly eating up the distance between his delta wing and his prey.

*

“What is it?” snarled Shan, as one of his men tried to attract his attention, he had been busy enjoying the wonderful destruction caused by the moist cloud raining down on the ground below.

He did not wait for an answer as he could see the readout and the constant bleep of a target lock. Smirking to himself, he moved over to the control station, ready to deal with the approaching fighter. A Champion of a cursed God had his own arsenal, weapons bestowed to him by his Master. The effects of which were gloriously wicked.

Waiting for his targeting system to lock was an annoyance, but immediately on seeing the reticule turn green, he savagely activated the control sequence.

Laughing and cackling, the possessed missiles were launched. Their shells constantly reforming as the blisters grew and then burst, a stream of rot and debris falling behind them as they flew.

*

“Frak!” muttered Marius, as his systems announced missile lock and he broke off his attack run, jinking and weaving his fighter in an effort to shake the abhorrent projectiles.

They followed his every move though, their possession allowing them to anticipate his actions and still close the distance. One looping move, brought Marius’ fighter around to face them and he fired his own spray of missiles and plasma. Whether it was skill or pure luck, his efforts were rewarded with the destruction of one of the objects; a cloud of greeny brown smoke announcing its extinction. The other, though, bored onwards towards Marius’ hurtling craft.

*

Shan could see they were getting close to the city now, as what had once been an indistinct shape, now took on individual form and substance. Buildings, towers and spires in dark glory appeared before him and he raise his hands in jubilation. Nothing could stop him now.

*

Marius eventually resigned himself to the fact that there was no way to rid himself of the demonic missile. Once he had accepted that fact, he decided to ensure that at least one part of his mission would be fulfilled and, ignoring the projectile behind him, targeted the perpetrator of the attack on his fighter.

Eyes squinting in concentration he chased the horrid craft down, the strident beeping that warned him of an imminent impact ever louder in his ears. He knew that he would only get one shot at this and he was determined that it was going to be a good one. At last he was close enough and he fired everything that he had; plasma, autocannon and Spitfire’s streamed towards Shan’s vessel.

Then levelling out his delta wing, he did the only thing that was left to him to do. As the alarms in his cockpit began one long ululating tone, he punched the ejection sequence and prayed.

*

The Tauran Adept’s reverie was rudely interrupted as plasma beams scored his craft, burning through superstructure and tearing searing holes in his engines. Autocannon rounds peppered his wings and his own defense systems failed in their pre-programmed routines. With a huge roar and a gout of gigantic flame, one of Marcus’ missiles destroyed Shan’s engines, causing the craft to pitch and yaw and then tumble towards the waiting earth.

Shan screamed in frustration, he had been so close to an easy victory and he lashed out with a huge hand, crushing the half rotten bones and flesh of one of his followers. Feeling somewhat better, he looked towards the uprushing ground and became calm. He and at least some of his men would survive this and then they would complete their objective on foot. All was not lost, at least not yet.

*

Viker saw Marius’ craft hit and the subsequent strikes against Shan’s vessel, somehow they had just been given another chance and he meant to take advantage of it. He knelt and opened his arms in prayer, his thoughts clear and precise as he made his request. Then he waited.

High Orbit
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Master Arshavin smiled to himself as he recognised the signatures of the arriving drone ships. Now, he could show these Churchmen and the recently arrived and overly corrupted Tauran forces, what a member of the intellectual class could do.

viernes, 30 de julio de 2010

Chapter Nine

Outer Reaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Master Arshavin laughed coldly as he watched the fleet of ships scurry to face his creations. Millennia had passed since he had last crossed swords with the Church; he had hidden himself away, developing his children to ever new and exigent levels.

His allegiance to the Tauran High Command had been swept away long ago, when he had followed the new Warmaster, ignoring the call of his brothers that he left behind. The time spent on the path of war had been helpful, but his arrogance knew no bounds and once again he had chosen solitude over the pitiful whining of his peers and subordinates. That had been a long time ago.

Combining the height of Church Technology, with demon possession had worked for a while, but he had soon decided that what he needed was something different. His spawn needed to obey him totally, and for that he had developed something new.

No doubt, both his Tauran brothers and the Church forces would declare him a heretic, but finally he had made his breakthrough. Those robots he had created, were self-thinking entities, to a point. Unswervingly loyal to Arshavin’s design, they had rudimentary brains, whose synapses were linked to his own central command. On the battlefield they could innovate, within the limit of their programmed capacity, although he still maintained the self-destruct option, if they ever advanced too far.

No-one had ever faced their like and survived and the prize waiting below, would add to their abilities. Carefully watching his screens, he saw the moment when they deployed their tactical weapons and grinned savagely. This was going to be entertaining.

*

Viker finished tightening the straps on his uniform, his gaze flicking across to Leftenant Krantu, who even now was receiving some last minute instructions from the Colonel.

He saw Corporal Johns and his old squad arrive and nodded to them with easy familiarity. It would be good to have them by his side once more, his amalgamation into Krantu’s squad was a little more difficult than he had first expected.

The call came and they formed up, ready to march onto the waiting pinnace. This was to be a quick and decisive strike, their target already defined by the Colonel. They would be dropping with some of the Eyatolians into what was expected to be a hot zone. The main body was to be held in reserve right now, the Colonel apparently ready to wait and see how the battle developed.

*

Marius fired his autocannons, the metal slugs tearing through space and impacting on the incoming objects. An ovoid of light flicked into existence and his rounds ricocheted harmlessly away.

“Careful boys,” he transmitted, “they’re shielded!”

His targeting reticule locked onto the next in line and he fired his plasma cannons. There was a brief resistance and then an incandescent explosion, as the creature disappeared.

“Captain!” screamed a voice, “Our laser cannons have absolutely no effect, we…..”

Looking at his tactical display, Marius saw the tags identifying his fighters begin to wink out and swore. With a snarl of rage, he slammed on the power and hoped he would get there in time.

*

The quill-like protrusions arched forwards, bending almost double and now facing towards the incoming fighters. Their shapes became fainter as the spines turned fluid and were flung forward, squirming towards the oncoming craft. Their serpentine motion made them hard to track and impossible to predict, yet not many pilots were overly worried, then the first of them struck.

It lashed around one of the fighter’s wings, shearing through the resistant metal as though it had never existed and continued on its way. The pilot instantly lost control of his craft, the fighter starting to spin and tumble, flying straight into more of the snake-like strings of energy. It was neatly sliced into pieces, with seemingly little sign of any diminution of the weapon’s strength.

Laser cannons fired, their beams ineffectual as they only scored the robot’s shields, with little or no penetration. Pilots were dying and there appeared to be nothing that they could do about it.

*

Arshavin crowed with delight as his robots’ weapons deployed, he was sublimely confident that the Churchmen had never faced anything like it and that nothing would be able to resist his latest inventions. He unknowingly had made a couple of mistakes; his opponents weren’t strictly speaking Churchmen and their technology was significantly higher than anything he had faced before.

*

“Fighters fall back, I repeat, fighters fall back!” ordered Marius as he and his Wing roared into battle. “We’ll soften them up for you and then you can finish them off, out!”

The delta wings flew in a linear formation, their plasma weapons blazing, the robots shields flaring and dying. Still Marius did not relent, utilising his vastly superior speed to turn and rake the robots again.

“Okay boys,” he transmitted, “they’re all yours! We’ve got bigger fish to fry!”

Once more the delta wings formed up on his lead and this time they powered on towards the waiting mother ship.

*

Arshavin had been surprised by the firepower exhibited by his enemies, but not overawed. It was time to put an end to this. He sent out a short mental command and drop pods began to deploy, augmenting his forces on the planet’s surface.

Another command, sent a beacon spinning outwards from his main ship, its pulsed signal designed not to control his current forces, but to call for reinforcements. He knew that his earlier preparations would now bear fruit. The two drone ships he had brought with him would arrive shortly and this battle would reach another level.

*

“Marius…” came the soft voice, reverberating inside the Captain’s head, a quick glance showing no radio activity.

“Yes, my Lord,” responded the Captain, his senses still focused on the burgeoning attack run on the robot’s mother ship.

“Abort your attack on the ship, I will take care of it,.” Marius began to protest, but he was quickly cut off, “No arguments. The protection of our landing force is of paramount importance. Take your Wing and give covering fire. We cannot allow these robots access to the treasure hidden below. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal, my Lord,” replied the Captain, already beginning to transmit new co-ordinates to his Wing, “We won’t let you down!”

“I never doubted that for one moment, Captain. Now …” the voice trailed off, and Marius saw the new ships dropping out from the warp.

“My Lord!” he exclaimed.

“You have yours orders, Captain!” snapped Walters, abruptly cutting off communication.

*

Shan had followed his instructions to the letter, his flagship, the Spiteful Dawn, led a fleet of plague infested vessels on the trail of Walters and his men. The beacon drawing on Walters, had also guided the Tauran Adept. Its pure light and chorus of song had inflicted some pain on Shan’s corrupted ears, but pain was something he revelled in.

They had quickly decimated the Church fleet, their unexpected attack had converted many before any resistance could be mounted. His new brothers had gleefully joined in the destruction of the few die-hard Immortals, and his now putrescent ships followed their new God faithfully.

Surprise he thought would be on their side, the Churchmen would not be prepared for the overwhelming Tauran attack. His new connection with his God gave him many things, but unfortunately for him, prescience was not one of them.

The jump directly into an ongoing space battle would not have been his most fervent wish, but he quickly adapted, ordering rapid deployment of his new ground forces and driving the Spiteful Dawn and her sisterships straight at the heart of the engagement.

*

Walters snarled as he recognised the abhorrent taste of Shan’s followers, corrupting the ether. His eyes flashed as he turned to face Berbatov.

“We seem to be outnumbered, Sargeant!” he said curtly.

Berbatov only grinned and gripped the staff of his halberd more tightly, “Which one’s mine?” he growled, unconcernedly.

“The Taurans,” responded Walters, smiling at his ever ready Sargeant, “take Uther and the rest of his men with you. I will personally get you to their flagship; the rest is up to you.”

“Just how I like it!” replied Berbatov, before turning and barking orders to his men.



Lower Atmosphere
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Viker grunted as the pinnace shuddered under fire, it seemed that their enemies were already aware that they were coming. Jones, as did the other non-commissioned officers, shouted at their men, forming them up and making sure that their motivation was at its highest possible.

The pinnace landed, its door slamming open and with a roar the infantry charged outwards. From the rear of the craft, a ramp slapped to earth and the Eyotalian’s armour poured forth, their battle cannons speaking almost as soon as they touched the dirt.

Making as if to follow Leftenant Krantu, Viker felt a touch on his shoulder; it was Johns.

“You’re with us, son,” shouted the Corporal, above the intense noise of laser and cannon fire.

Looking up, he saw the Leftenant nod, and Viker raced to join his old squad, who waited expectantly.


Outer Reaches
Diadem
Unassigned Space


Walters stood beside Berbatov and looked over the waiting men and Immortals. They had not questioned how he was going to get them on board the enemy’s vessel nor the force they would face once they got there.

“Call me, if you need me,” he muttered to Berbatov, and then began, drawing in the energy from his surroundings. A green pin-point of light formed, rapidly expanding as he opened the portal. Not waiting for its full formation, Berbatov leapt through, howling his battle cry, which turned into a full-throated roar as his men followed.

*

Things were going to plan, was the smug thought flitting through the Shan’s mind, as he saw how heavily he outnumbered the others’ forces. His men had already started their descent to the planet below and now it was his turn to deal out pain and suffering. He smiled and moved to issue his attack orders when all hell broke loose. The ship itself seemed to scream in pain, as though it had been dealt a mortal blow, its alarms sounding more like cries than warnings.

Not being sure of what was happening, Shan called for answers, even as the first of his men began to die.