Impact Imminent - The Kylie Rhoads Space Adventure Continues (Aeon 14: Perilous Alliance), page 1
PERILOUS ALLIANCE – BOOK 4
BY CHRIS J. PIKE & M. D. COOPER
Just in Time (JIT) & Beta Readers
Timothy Van Oosterwyk Bruyn
Copyright © 2018 Chris J. Pike & M. D. Cooper
Aeon 14 is Copyright © 2018 M. D. Cooper
Cover Art by Laércio Messias
Editing by Tee Ayer
Aeon 14 & M. D. Cooper are registered trademarks of Michael Cooper
All rights reserved
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE TWO FATHERS
DINNER AND A FIGHT
GOATS AND SCAPES
GIVE ME LIBERTY
THE BOOKS OF AEON 14
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
The Silstrand Alliance was one of the first places I conceived in Aeon 14. I was researching a good place to set up an interstellar nation that would not be too far from Sol, but far enough that it wouldn’t be a part of any central empire.
I was hunting down good Class G star candidates when I came across a region of space that had very few Class G stars, except this group that ran in a (for stars) relatively straight line.
This matched up with one of my terraforming and colonization paths for the FGT, and I determined that a worldship would have passed sequentially through all these stars.
This would make these stars a narrow strip with FGT terraformed worlds in what would otherwise be a wilderness of uninhabited systems, or at least systems with no terraformed worlds, or poorly terraformed worlds.
When a man named Peter led the first colony ship to this region, he dubbed it the Silver Strand, and thus the Silstrand Alliance was born.
You’ll still see his name in many things in the Silstrand Alliance, from the name of the PetSil mining platform in Destiny Lost, to the manufacturer of Kylie’s first ship.
But now the Silstrand Alliance is in the rear-view mirror as Kylie and her crew take the Barbaric Queen in search of her brother, Paul Rhoads, and the rest of the Revolution Fleet.
This adventure will take Kylie back to her roots as she must confront the past and both reconcile it with her present and with what lies in wait for her in the future.
M. D. Cooper
In the previous Perilous Alliance book, Collision Course, Kylie finally confronted her father, Peter Rhoads, and was forced to kill him to stop his attack on the Silstrand System.
There she also learned that other forces were working with the Revolution Fleet, including General Garza of the Orion Freedom Alliance, and a mysterious person her father called his ‘Angel’.
Although Kylie cut the head off the snake, the destruction at Silstrand would have been much greater, if not for the arrival of Tanis and the ISF First Fleet.
Aboard the I2, Kylie learned that there was a much larger game afoot, but that she still had a crucial part to play. The ISF requires the Scipio Empire’s help, and the Scipio Empire has added their own conditions to the deal, one of the foremost being that the Silstrand Alliance get the fringe systems under control. A large part of that effort will be repairing the damage that Kylie’s father had done to the fringe systems lying between Silstrand and the vast Scipio Empire.
With a new ship—the Barbaric Queen—and a couple of new crewmembers, namely Bubbs and Ricket, Kylie has set off for the Hanoi System, where her father destroyed an entire world that had defied him.
That was the last known location of her brother Paul and the remainder of the Revolution Fleet.
Finding Paul and stopping him is Kylie’s primary mission, one she is determined to see succeed—but hunting one’s own family is no easy thing, especially when wading through the trail of destruction they’ve left behind.
THE TWO FATHERS
STELLAR DATE: 10.29.8948 (Adjusted Years)
LOCATION: Barbaric Queen
REGION: Interstellar Space, near Hanoi System (independent)
Kylie Rhoads had always dreamed of flying amongst the stars.
Growing up on a simple agrarian world without advanced technology, it had seemed like a pipe dream. But at night, while her brothers stayed inside the quaint farmhouse, content to help Momma with the dishes, or lend Poppa a hand in repairing the heating vents, Kylie would often sneak out of her bedroom window, dropping into the blueberry bushes below.
She recalled one particular night when she’d crawled out from the bush, licking blueberry juice from her fingers and shaking leaves from her short brown pigtails. The memory was so vivid, Kylie still remembered what she’d worn: a corduroy dress with long socks over her knees, and patent leather shoes.
She hadn’t known it then, but Kylie was the pride of the Rhoads family. The only girl and pampered as such, her room had enough dolls to strangle a horse, as her Poppa was always saying. And yet, her curiosity for what lay beyond the four walls of her family home couldn’t be quenched.
That night, the sounds of singing drifted to her from the house, Momma’s voice spilling out into the still night as Kylie raced toward the simple wooden fence that ringed the yard. Her run was accompanied by the clucking of chickens from the henhouse and she imagined that they were joining in with her mother.
Across the low hill she dashed, through the surrounding fruit trees and bushes laden with berries, until she came to the orchard’s edge and slid to a sudden halt.
But she didn’t cast her eyes at the nearby town spread out down below. Instead, her gaze alighted on the heavens above.
At the stars.
Kylie soaked in the view; it was like a canopy of twinkling lights up above. She went up on tip toe, resting her chin on a fence post and waited, trying not to yawn or think about how close to bedtime it really was.
“You’ll never go to sleep if you don’t see them, will you?”
Kylie jumped at the sound of her father’s voice, turning to give him a sheepish smile. “Poppa, I….” She didn’t know what to say. Lying was out of the question—he always saw right through her.
He grinned good-naturedly, even as his eyes crinkled with tiredness at the end of a long day of preac
There it was: a streak of light across the sky. Kylie gasped open-mouthed at sight and then glanced at Poppa. “A shooting star!”
He laughed. “Beautiful isn’t it? You know, space once was called ‘the heavens’, and I can see why. So, beautiful. Humans have gone far, conquered so much, and yet it’s never enough. We’re still curious, still traveling. The human spirit is a wonderful thing, Kylie. Maybe even more wonderful than the stars themselves.”
Something more wonderful than being amongst those twinkling lights? Kylie didn’t think so. In her short life, she had only been on a few trips into space, and they were her most cherished memories. “When will we go out to the stars again, Poppa? When!?”
“Soon.” He placed her down on the ground and tickled her chin, grinning as she scrunched up her neck and laughed. “You’re meant to travel out there, I know it. You’ll do great things, but first…dessert and a bed time story, I think. Yes?”
Kylie nodded, her head bopping up and down. “Yes, yes! The Princess and the Peach again!”
Poppa tapped her head. “Not It,” he called loudly, pivoting and racing toward the house. Kylie squealed, charging after him, never having had more fun.
She hadn’t known then the horror her future held. How all the good times would be drowned in sorrow. Kylie hadn’t known she’d be the one to kill him.
* * * * *
Kylie’s pilot’s voice interrupted her reverie and pulled her inexorably back to the present—no matter how much she wanted to stay in the past, pretending things hadn’t changed. The smell of the family’s grove, of her old room, and the memories of curling up on her father’s lap in front of a warm fire faded away, replaced by the dimly lit—and generally less appealing—bridge of the Barbaric Queen.
“Dropping out of FTL, captain,” Rogers announced.
Kylie eased herself out of the command chair, and crossed her arms, staring into the black. She had never given the Hanoi System much thought before—that was until she’d learned that her father had destroyed the world of Hubei.
Hell, Kylie had only even heard of the Hanoi System once or twice in passing, usually in reference to their beer. It was impossible to keep track of the mess of systems crowding along the rimward fringe of the Scipio Empire.
In all honesty, the reason she’d barely been aware of it was because Hubei hadn’t been important. Now, it was all she could think of.
The Hanoi System lacked a single government; it was, at best, a loose coalition of planets and habitats that had established mutually beneficial trade and a shared desire to not annihilate one another.
Kylie suspected that was what had made it easy prey for her father. He’d only had to cow some of the disparate worlds and habs in order to force them all to go along with his doctrine.
Until Hubei hadn’t played ball.
Ricket, sitting at the Scan and Comm station, pulled up the system’s current layout, throwing it onto the main holo screen.
The woman was possessed of a perfectly engineered beauty. Almond-shaped blue eyes and long, sweeping brown hair, she wore tight black pants and an empire-waist purple blouse. Refined and elegant in every way, it was a little bit like having Nadine on the bridge.
Spy operative or damsel in distress, Nadine’s true identity continued to war with the love Kylie once held for her. Perhaps still held for her.
Kylie and Ricket had met when aboard David Rhoads’ flagship, the Ark of Justice. An agent of the Hand, Ricket was resourceful, smart, and could think outside the box. Skills Kylie was going to need once she discovered Paul’s whereabouts. If her AI-fearing brother wouldn’t stand down, she’d need someone who could think on their feet to help Kylie deal with him.
She also wondered if Tanis and Sera had sent Ricket along to keep an eye on things. The woman was a spy after all.
“Got the two terrestrial worlds,” Ricket said, gesturing at the holo. “Hubei is the outer, Battia is the inner. A half-dozen gas giants, none of any significant size. Mess of habs around them sucking up rocks and gas for whatever products they produce.”
“Not a bad system, without…you know,” Rogers said from the pilot’s seat. “Low population, too. Always surprised me that they hadn’t been picked over by pirates. From what I hear, a lot of the habs pay protection money to Battia and they maintain a small fleet to keep the place safe.”
Kylie nodded as she looked over the system, her eyes constantly darting back to the dot labelled Hubei. She couldn’t help but notice that Ricket had described them as ‘terrestrial’, not ‘terraformed’.
“I hope the Barbaric Queen never raided this system,” Ricket muttered. “Kingfisher didn’t exactly keep detailed logs on where he went.”
Rogers laughed and shook his head. “And by that, I assume you mean that he wiped them regularly.”
“All the better to pay fewer dues to Maverick and the GFF,” Kylie replied, only half paying attention to her crew’s banter.
Rogers thrust a fist in the air, barely visible over the high-backed seat. “Anything that shafts Maverick is something I endorse.”
“I wonder how things are going for him,” Kylie mused. “Being the President of Gedri and all…”
Rogers peered around his seat and shook his head at Kylie. “Still can’t believe you nominated him for that.”
“You backed him for it?” Ricket turned in her chair, regarding Kylie with a disbelieving stare. “Why in the stars…?”
“Trust me,” Kylie said, “he was better than the alternative.”
“And that,” Rogers barked a laugh, “says everything you need to know about Gedri.”
No one spoke for a few minutes as Ricket pulled updated information on advertised travel lanes and passed them to Rogers over the Link.
“No Revolution Fleet ships on scan,” Ricket, announced turning in her seat to look at Kylie. “Looks like a courier ship passed through a few days ago and spread the news of your father’s defeat at Silstrand.”
Kylie sighed, half with relief, half with sadness. “Well, at least I won’t have to be the one to explain all that. What about Hubei?”
Ricket turned back to her console. “I’ve got almost no signal coming from Hubei. Looks like even the stations in orbit are abandoned…or at least without power.”
After a few minutes, Kylie rose and walked to the bridge’s exit. “Set a course for a close pass of Hubei, Rogers.”
Rogers looked back at her. “You sure? Ricket said no one’s there anymore. We probably won’t—”
Kylie didn’t turn to face her pilot, but she did let out a long sigh. “Rogers. Please.”
“Aye, aye, captain.”
STELLAR DATE: 11.01.8948 (Adjusted Years)
LOCATION: Barbaric Queen
REGION: Approaching Hubei, Hanoi System (independent)
It took three days to reach Hubei from the jump point. Three days during which Kylie interacted with her crew as little as possible, finding distant corners of the massive ship to disappear into.
She had thought being in the Hanoi system would be easier. After all, she had taken out the man who had caused so much harm here. Yet, somehow it all ended up just being worse.
Now, they were on approach for their pass around Hubei, the planet her father had destroyed…something she still couldn’t reconcile with the man who had raised her.
Kylie set her jaw as she walked toward the bridge, resisting the urge to fidget with her long sleeves. She was dressed casually in a pair of blue pants and a white, off-the-shoulder sweater. Her brown hair had grown out past her shoulders and she still sported the soft purple streak down one side.
She didn’t know
When she stepped onto the ship’s large bridge—which always felt more than a little empty with just Rogers and Ricket at their stations—she didn’t speak.
Ricket glanced back as Kylie sat in the captain’s chair, then gave a short nod before turning back to her console.
Once in the acceleration-dampening chair, Kylie no longer felt the low thrum of the fusion engines that had been present for the past two days.
The Barbaric Queen had come into the Hanoi system at over half the speed of light, using a jump point as close to the inner system as they could manage.
Normally, a high delta-v would require them to brake around the system’s star—or at least one of the larger gas giants. But scan showed almost no activity around Hubei and Rogers had instead spun the ship and pointed the torches at the planet, braking at several g’s over the three days.
Not that they felt it. Given the ship’s former life as a cruise liner, it had amazing dampening systems.
And it wasn’t as though anyone on Hubei was around to care about the wave of radiation and plasma the ship’s engines were directing toward the world.
Even so, Rogers was pushing the wash a few degrees off the planet—just in case there were any survivors anywhere.
“Do we have optical?” Kylie asked after a few minutes.
“We do,” Ricket replied with a slow nod. “It’s not pretty.”
Kylie already knew that. She was expecting the worst. “Put it up.”
Hubei appeared on the forward holo. What had once been a vibrant planet with millions of inhabitants was now nothing more than a molten orb, its atmosphere a dense mix of toxic gasses and ash.
Breaks in the dark clouds showed newly formed sections of crust floating on oceans of magma. Kylie felt a lump form in her throat as she thought about the people who had once lived on the world.