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Chapter One from Gabriel: Zero Point, the prequel to the Gabriel scifi trilogy

August 28, 2012 Leave a comment

November, 2166
North American Federation Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island

“Which one is he?”

Vice Admiral Eriq Cafferty looked up from his flexscreen at the sound of his attaché’s voice behind him and rubbed his eyes with one hand. The unforgiving steel bleachers he sat on played havoc with his lower back, and the squeaking of sneakers on the polished hardwood floor from the far side of the gym was starting to give him a headache. He twisted one hip, trying to get a bit of relief while at the same time politely facing his questioner.

His attaché, Lieutenant Commander Alejandra Basilio, was looking across the wide gymnasium at the sweat-drenched recruits crashing and banging into each other. Behind her sat a bald man in civilian clothes. His eyes were shut, most likely going over neuretics information. The two of them along with Cafferty had entered the gym a few minutes earlier and took a seat as far away from the action as they could to observe unseen.

It was ostensibly a pickup basketball game, but as they observed, fewer and fewer baskets were scored, while more and more grunts and curses were heard.

It was obvious to Cafferty that the young officer candidates were blowing off steam. Today marked the nine-week milestone in Officer Candidate School, and these six, five men and one woman, passed their Victory Runs the previous day. As of today, they were regarded as Candidate Officers, a position of some esteem and authority within the twelve-week long OCS class. According to Cafferty’s flexscreen, all distinguished themselves in one way or another, and passed each and every one of the NAFN’s toughest tests along the way. But only one had unanimously blown away the instructors with his mettle, determination, and intelligence. Not to mention scoring off the charts in raw skills, Cafferty thought. As best as they could be measured.

“The blond,” he said to Basilio.

Basilio squinted. “Ah, sir, two of them are blond. At least I think so. They’re all dripping with sweat,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

Cafferty smiled. “The big one.”

“Oh, the banger, not one of the bangees,” she replied.

Cafferty slid his flexscreen closed and pointed with it. “Yes, banger.” He waved the tube. “He’s been giving the instructors a hell of a time keeping him challenged on the courses. I’m sure you’ve seen the results of…damn.”

The flexscreen tube slipped from his grasp and clattered onto the metal bench in front of them, then bounced down through the bleachers, striking several more benches on the way down to the floor. The sound echoed off the walls, and the sneaker squeaking ceased.

Cafferty heard a low, “Oh shit,” from the game, then a much louder, “Admiral on deck!”

The six on the court snapped to attention facing the bleachers as the basketball bounced lazily away, coming to rest near the far door. Cafferty let the silence linger for a few moments, thankful for the rest it gave his ears, then waved a hand.

“At ease, Candidate Officers,” he called out. As one, the six went to sharp parade rest. He heard their low breathing sounds as each of them attempted to maintain a perfectly still composure while trying to catch up on oxygen. Tops in their class, he thought as he stared across the gym. These are the young men and women who will be leading us into the next decade, taking over for me and my generation’s bad backs. He twisted his other hip and felt a small, satisfying crack.

He waited a few more moments, then said, “Candidate Officer Gabriel, report on the double.”

A tall man snapped to attention, then jogged towards the two officers on the bleachers. Upon reaching them, he came to rigid attention again, staring at the wall above their heads.

“Officer Candidate, er, Candidate Officer Evan Gabriel, reporting, sir!” the young man said.

Cafferty chuckled. “Took me a while to get used to all the different names I was assigned during OCS as well.” He looked back at the other five, who were still at parade rest, and saw several curious glances in his direction. He waved his hand again. “Back to the game, candidates.”

The five looked at each other uneasily. Finally the lone woman in the group walked over to the basketball, picked it up, and threw it two-handed into the chest of one of the others. The game, or grunt-laced brawl, picked up where it had left off.

Cafferty folded his hands on his lap and turned his attention back to the young man in front of him. “Tell me, son. How does an additional title of Regimental Commander sound?”

One eyebrow rose almost imperceptibly on Gabriel, but his gaze never left the wall. “Quite an honor, sir!”

“An honor I understand you deserve based on what I’ve been told by your instructors. You’ll be nominally in charge of several other candidates for the final three weeks of school. Is command something that interests you?”

“Absolutely, Admiral,” he replied with a tiny nod. “It’s why I applied to OCS.”

Cafferty returned the nod. “And your friends out there,” he said, glancing at the basketball game. “Can you command friends? Send them into battle? Send them to die?”

He saw Gabriel’s jaw clench. Good, emotion, thought Cafferty. Can’t have robots in the Navy.

“Sir, I don’t have any friends,” he replied, and Cafferty caught a minute change in the tenor of his voice.

Gabriel’s file, the one Cafferty had pored over that morning on the flight in from Toronto, read like a Greek tragedy. Lost his mother to a rare form of untreatable cancer when he was only nine. Lost his father in an accident in the immediate aftermath of the Shanghai asteroid event when he was twelve. Lost his older brother when he had unexpectedly left Earth several months ago to pursue business on New Tokyo. He had no other immediate family, and he enlisted in the Navy, with the backing and help of his only other surviving relative, an uncle, a Navy man himself. He bounced around from one location to another, never staying in one place long enough to create any connections.

When Gabriel was a noncom serving in South Africa, he applied for Officer Candidate School. His commanding officer put in a glowing recommendation, part of which said that Gabriel would most likely be his commanding officer within a few years if he was granted entry.

What the file didn’t technically say, but Cafferty easily understood, was that Gabriel was alone and had been most of his life. He put his heart and soul into the military, and his achievements and grades during the first three quarters of OCS showed it. Looking at the square-jawed young man standing in front of him, hazel eyes boring into the wall, Cafferty knew Gabriel had been meant for something greater than grunt work. He suspected the man was destined for an important future.

“You have three more weeks of OCS,” said Cafferty. “After which time you will graduate to O-1, an Ensign, and be assigned to a North American Federation Navy regiment either on Earth or off-world. Do you have any preference as to where you’ll be sent?”

“No, sir,” Gabriel said immediately. “Happy to serve wherever I’m sent, sir.”

“While we both know everyone has some type of preference, I appreciate your flexibility,” said Cafferty with a small smile. “And that is the correct answer, of course.”

“Admiral, if I may?” said Basilio, and Cafferty nodded.

“Mister Gabriel, what are your goals?” she asked.

Gabriel shoulders shifted. He blinked twice, but regained his composure. “Ma’am?”

“Your goals,” Basilio repeated. “Why are you here?”

Gabriel opened his mouth to reply, then closed it. After a few moments, he answered, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m not sure what you mean.” His eyes never left the wall behind the bleachers, but Cafferty saw a flicker of uncertainty in them.

Basilio leaned forward. “Why did you enlist in the Navy, Mister Gabriel?”

Gabriel cleared his throat. “I’m not entirely sure, ma’am. I… I had nothing else. And it’s something…” He paused.

“Go on,” said Cafferty.

Gabriel’s lips twitched and he blinked deeply. “It’s something I thought I’d be good at. And I feel I am good at it, ma’am. Sir.”

Cafferty nodded slightly. “That you are, son. Seems as though you may have found your calling.”

He turned to Basilio. “Anything else, Lieutenant Commander?”

She shook her head. “No, sir. That’s all I wanted to hear.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Cafferty caught Gabriel’s gaze shift slightly to the man who sat two rows behind Basilio. Cafferty saw that the man had focused his eyes on Gabriel like targeting lasers.

“Never mind him,” said Cafferty. “He’s just an observer. From another department.”

“Sorry, sir, I…” Gabriel began, only to be cut off by Cafferty’s raised hand.

“No worries. Please,” he said with a wave, “rejoin the game. If I recall from my OCS days many years ago, you’ve only got a few hours open today, then it’s back to the grind.” He stared into Gabriel’s eyes. “But I’ll be watching you, son. Following your progress. I think you have a great deal of potential, Mister Gabriel. Don’t waste it.”

Gabriel’s posture tightened. “Aye aye, sir. Thank you, sir!” he snapped, then spun on one heel and jogged back to the court.

Cafferty watched him go, then grimaced as the pain in his back shot through his system once again. “What do you think, Alex?”

“I think it’s an excellent class, Admiral,” she replied. “And I think that Gabriel is obviously the standout. I also think…”

“I want him.”

Cafferty turned at the sound of the voice behind him. The man in civilian clothes stood up and stepped down the rows of metal benches, his clanging footsteps competing with the sneaker squeaking from the far side of the gym.

“You can’t have him, Pete. You know that,” said Cafferty as the man reached the bottom of the bleachers. “At least not yet. He needs to get his feet wet first.”

“Then get them wet, Eriq,” replied the man. “Authorize an accelerated pay grade jump. Bump him to O-2 right away. I know you can do that.”

Cafferty shook his head. “And he needs trial by fire. Isn’t that what you’re always asking for when you cherry-pick my finest?”

“Put him under fire,” said the man as he glanced over his shoulder at the basketball game. “You know there’s a shitstorm brewing in the Canary Islands. And you know you’ll be sending people, regardless of the election results next week.”

The man turned towards the rear door. “Give him a wartime command. Get him to O-3. Then give him to me.” He walked out of the gymnasium without another word.

Cafferty watched the twin steel doors swing shut behind the man, then looked back towards the court. The six recruits were banging into each other, harder than before, as their time off wound down. He saw Gabriel posting up a heavier but shorter man, backing him down into the paint while dribbling. Just as he was about to turn and shoot, the young woman darted in and picked his pocket. She fired the ball back to the top of the circle where her teammate waited. His uncontested jump shot snapped the netting as it sailed through the basket. Gabriel’s expression at the minor failure was pure disgust.

“Admiral, may I ask who that man was?”

Cafferty answered without turning from the game. “An old friend from Naval Special Warfare doing his own recruiting.” He stood and stretched his back. “Every now and then he stops by to see a class. I suppose Gabriel caught his department’s attention as well as ours.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Basilio asked as she stood up.

He smiled. “As long as it’s only every now and then. Sometimes a young man or woman comes along that doesn’t belong in the regular Navy. Someone meant for something bigger.” He watched as the recruits played on, sweat soaking through their workout clothes, turning the gray fabric black. “And this time, it seems to be young Mister Gabriel.”

The two officers stepped down the bleachers. Cafferty stooped to pick up his dropped flexscreen tube and grunted as his back pain flared up. Basilio quickly bent and retrieved it for him.

“Thanks, Alex,” he said. “I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“None of us are, sir.”

Basilio walked towards the doors as Cafferty took one last look at the court. The bodies were crashing together once again. He heard a voice yell, “C’mon, big E, is that all you got?” He smiled and turned towards the door to follow Basilio out.

Good luck, Mister Gabriel.

*****

GABRIEL: ZERO POINT is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and other devices.

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Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge – Shuttle Launch to Mars

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Gabriel had just cinched his straps when the Marcinko’s engines ignited, pressing each of them back into their seats in the shuttle. He heard Olszewski mutter a curse from next to him. He looked over at the private with a raised eyebrow.

“Sorry, sir. I’m a ground pounder. I hate this shit. Necessary evil to get me where I need to go I guess, but doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

Gabriel turned back to the front of the shuttle. He stared past the pilot’s helmet and out the viewport, where he could see a sliver of starry space. The ventral bay doors had begun to open.

He closed his eyes and linked his neuretics in to the Marcinko’s battlecomp feed. He saw with some satisfaction the other five in his team all did the same. He knew some did it for the thrill of watching the battle unfold, some for the situational awareness. Whatever their reasons, he didn’t blame them. It wasn’t just a learning experience for him either. He wanted to see the enemy. And see them destroyed.

The specialist that had loaded them and their gear, Allen, was also their pilot. His hand flew over the switches mounted in front of him as he prepared the shuttle for launch.

“Sirs and ma’am, hold on,” Allen called out. “The captain’s got some rapid maneuvers planned, and we’re getting spit out in the middle of them. Hope no one ate lunch yet.”

“Keven?” It was Sowers’s voice.

“Zip it,” said Brevik. “Watch.”

Gabriel kept his eyes closed and let his Mindseye show him the situation.

The Marcinko went to full power and arced down towards Mars. Gabriel felt his chest squeezed by the G-forces and tried to control his breathing as he saw multicolored stars behind his eyelids. After a few seconds the heavy acceleration eased and the stars cleared, leaving him more able to focus on the Mindseye feed.

The battlecomp tagged the blockade fighter with a red icon. The projected path of the Marcinko was just outside of its orbit, but Gabriel saw the flight path of the shuttle, once launched, went almost directly through the red icon. He remembered McTiernan’s order to the tac officer to ‘remove it from the equation’, so he was not surprised when he heard the clank of the internal missile launcher falling into place in front of their shuttle.

The rotating launcher spat two Jayhawk missiles, then immediately swung back up to the ceiling of the docking bay. Another clank sounded throughout the cabin as the launch arm grabbed the shuttle and set it into position above the open ventral doors. The Marcinko began its release maneuver and Gabriel was pressed into his seat. With a loud hiss of hydraulics that could be heard even within the pressurized cabin, the shuttle fell from the docking bay, and he went weightless.

Gabriel’s Mindseye painted a vivid image of the scene around them: the Marcinko peeling away from their position, the two Jayhawks going hypersonic in front of them, and the dusty orange globe below them. The serene image lasted only a split second before Allen fired the shuttle engines and initiated the descent.

The picket fighter never stood a chance. It was only using station-keeping thrusters and apparently not expecting an attack, especially one that came from a hole in space. The Jayhawks were on it before it even had an opportunity to light its engine.

“Hold on!” yelled Allen. Gabriel opened his eyes to look out past the pilot. The explosion of the fighter loomed ahead and grew quickly in size as the shuttle accelerated towards Mars. A sound like nails on metal decking rattled through the cabin as the debris from the explosion peppered the hull of the shuttle.

“We’re clear!” The pilot turned to look over his shoulder. “Everyone A-OK?”

Gabriel saw Olszewski raise a thumb next to him, then heard a retching from Takahashi behind him. He ignored it — at this point he was used to it — and stared out of the pilot’s viewport.

Ahead of them lay Mars. And Renay.

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge, Finale of Scifi Trilogy – Ambush on Mars

March 16, 2012 1 comment

Gabriel could hear the thin Mars atmosphere whipping past his combat helmet’s visor. Visibility from a thousand yards altitude was excellent, enhanced by his helmet’s optics, but no matter how hard he stared, there was simply nothing to see. Even the approaching dust storm barely visible in the distance held no interest for him.

Ordinarily, a typical first-time visitor to Mars would gawk at the wide open plain and the terraced steppes of the northern rim of Valles Marineris, or marvel at the flashes of dirty gray water ice in the shade of some of the peaks, or point excitedly at the ancient dust-covered Russian and Japanese landers. But today, like yesterday, his mind was elsewhere.

The last time he had set foot on Mars was over a week ago, kissing Renay goodbye in the skyhook terminal. There was a young boy who had been hesitant to approach him, and he had won him over with a tiny gift of a patch. The image of Renay’s smile at that small action flashed across his mind, and he closed his eyes to the outside world.

The ache in his chest returned, a similar type of ache he had felt many years ago when he learned of his father’s death during the Dark Days. But there was something else there, something different from that feeling of despair he had borne for years. He knew Renay wasn’t dead. And he was going to find her.

The secure call he had just received from Major Andon had surprised him, but not completely. Now that he had specific information in hand, information he hoped he would have prior to arriving at Eos Chasma, he was feeling more confident in the plan he was formulating.

He gritted his teeth as for the first time, he regretted bringing his team. He opened his eyes and looked around at the battlesuited soldiers arranged around the perimeter of the hopper’s platform. They stared back, though he knew they weren’t seeing him, that it was just an illusion brought on by his regret. He was sure they were looking at their HUDs, or going through their individual battle preps, or in the case of Brevik, maybe napping. They put their full trust in him, as they had for months now, and they followed him unquestioningly. Even now, with an unspoken plan of attack many outsiders would consider seat-of-the-pants, they were here.

He pushed down the regret. He brought up the schematic Andon had sent him, and he felt his lips tighten into a grim smile. Now we have a target.

The engines’ scream changed pitch as Ky delicately balanced the hopper on four tongues of flame and began their descent. Gabriel closed his eyes again, thinking back to some of Tomas Katoa’s final words on Eden. “Joining my friends in the SAR,” he had said. “They’ve got larger plans.” He clenched his armored fist hard enough that it crumpled the hopper’s safety railing he leaned against. They were behind all of this, he thought.

“Commander I’ve got… I don’t really know what I’ve got.”

Takahashi’s voice over the team net snapped Gabriel’s eyes open. He immediately linked into Takahashi’s sensors and put the image on his helmet’s HUD. The marker showing the research outpost was circled in blue, and a tiny red icon had just popped up adjacent to it. His neuretics instantly tagged it as a threat and his linked Otero systems spun up to full readiness.

“Hang on, we’ve got…” His voice was cut off in a roar of high explosive.

***

GABRIEL’S REVENGE is Book 3 of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Revenge, Book 3: Spy Ship Brings Data…and Questions

February 28, 2012 1 comment

“NAFN Richard Marcinko, this is Corporal Lewis Grienke aboard the MDF packetship Shadow. Coded message for Commander Gabriel. Please respond.”

Gabriel turned to McTiernan with his eyebrows raised. “There’s a man in that thing?”

McTiernan nodded. “Yes, we were as surprised as you. Damned thing is less than five feet across. Must have been like flying in a coffin.”

An image of the drop capsules screaming through the atmosphere of Poliahu flashed across Gabriel’s mind. “Been there, done that.” He squinted at the image on the screen. “Have you responded?”

“Yes, Ensign Giroux confirmed the receipt of the tight-beam with our own. The corporal is asking for you personally and will not release the message without your code.”

Gabriel shook his head. “I have no idea what code he’s speaking of, but I guess you’d better get me on the line with him.”

McTiernan waved his hand to Giroux and the communications officer opened a channel. “The packetship is still half a million miles or so away, so there’s a three second lag each way.”

The overhead speaker beeped with the opening of the comm link.

“Corporal Grienke, this is Commander Evan Gabriel. I received your transmission, but I do not have a code.”

After a few seconds, the overhead speaker crackled. “Thank you sir, voice code received and accepted.”

Gabriel glanced at McTiernan, who merely shrugged his shoulders. “Didn’t think it would be that simple,” Gabriel said in a low tone.

“He found us, Commander,” McTiernan replied. “He probably isn’t too worried about imposters at this point.”

Gabriel nodded. “Go ahead with your transmission, Corporal.”

Before the voice returned, Giroux called out. “Captain, I’m receiving a data stream overlaid on the transmission. It’s clean. Shall I put it up?”

“Go ahead, Ensign, same screen.”

The image of the ship and its statistics disappeared, replaced by a schematic of the solar system. The Ryokou wormhole was a green square, surrounded by several red threat dots, with Mars a flashing yellow circle. Numbers scrolled down one side of the screen showing distances, estimated armament, positioning, open corridors, and other tactical data.

“Commander, I have a message from Major Andon,” Grienke’s voice continued. “He sends his regards and his congratulations for a mission well done on Eden, but has a significant warning to pass along. And yes sir, he used the word significant. You should be seeing the data I collected on my flight out. It was… tight… getting through undetected, as the wormhole approach is littered with Chinese fighters. I’m sure they didn’t see this packetship, but they probably picked up my wormhole transit. I fully expect them to know you’re on the way. Major Andon’s warning is that these fighters have orders to shoot the Marcinko on sight, no questions asked.”

Several seconds passed in silence. Gabriel squeezed the railing hard enough to make his knuckles go white. “Just like Eden,” he said under his breath.

Grienke went on. “I’ve sent you the data on the wormhole area. I’m also sending you data on the Mars blockade ships as best as we can detect. The bulk of the Chinese ships are at Ryokou, only a handful around Mars. They seem to be putting quite an effort into blocking your entry into the system. Major Andon has also enclosed data on the situation on the ground, which is a second packet I’m sending you.”

Giroux raised his hand. “Received, Captain.”

“Corporal, stand by to be picked up,” said McTiernan.

A few seconds ticked by as the light speed transmission went out and was answered.

“Ah, sir, I’m supposed to continue on to Calypso to be attached to the MDF training force. This mission sort of dovetailed with my schedule, blockade or not. Lucky me, right?” A small laugh came through the speaker. “And while it’s a bit tighter quarters than I expected, I’d rather keep going than join you in a firefight. No offense, Captain.”

“None taken, Corporal,” McTiernan replied. “Safe travels, and thank you for the information.”

“Thank you, sir, and good luck. Shadow out.”

McTiernan shifted in his command chair to face Gabriel. “What is it with the Chinese connection?”

Gabriel shook his head, still staring at the solar system schematic. “Wish I knew, Captain. But I get the feeling we’ll find out soon enough.”

***

GABRIEL’S REVENGE is the finale of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Return, Book 2: Heavy Weapons in Action

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

When Escobio Armory Ltd., a small company based in rural Mexico City, started producing weapons for the North American Federation military forces, they at first specialized in handguns, small caliber long range rifles, and man-portable light machine guns. They did not begin to manufacture pulse weapons until 2172, not long after the disastrous raid on Eden.

The NAF brass had asked Escobio’s management to help create a larger, more powerful heavy assault weapon that a soldier could carry long distances, across and through difficult terrain, and that required little to no maintenance. They had deduced from the Eden mission that a small military force, far from home, with a limited supply train, still required heavy weapons to back them up, and ones that didn’t need an ammo carrier to slow the soldier down, or vehicles to mount them on.

From this request came the Oso, or bear in Spanish. The newest incarnation of Escobio’s creation, the Oso-11, was set atop a small hill on a bipod, and behind it squatted the blurry outline of Lieutenant Harris Brevik, NAFN.

Coherent light spat from Brevik’s Oso-11, bright orange pulses of energy accelerated by shaped magnetic fields along the weapon’s three-foot long, five-inch diameter carbotanium barrel. Brevik held the trigger pad down, feeling the heat wash over his visor as the energy pulses blasted from the end of the weapon, forty times per second.

The guard barracks, built from a standard extruded plastic housing unit reinforced with steelroot studs and neopine planking walls, stood no chance. The pulses tore the building to shreds, flashes of orange light mixing with flaming wood and melting plastic expanding in all directions. Brevik walked the pulses from side to side along the top of the building, and within seconds the entire top half of the structure was shattered beyond recognition.

Several terrorists ran from the burning building, the ones that survived the initial barrage, and began firing their rifles in the general direction of Brevik’s pulses. The Oso immediately cut down two in flashes of energy, the bodies crumpling to the ground. One ran out with his hands in the air, then dropped to the ground prone. Brevik made sure the pulses skipped him.

One terrorist had made it to the cover of one of the nearby yellowboles, and was firing around the edge of it, only a glimpse of the rifle barrel visible. Brevik paused in his firing, surveying the area.

“Hey kid, can you see him?” he called.

The youth, who was squatting several yards away, rifle at the ready, nodded. “Yes, can you draw him out?”

Without a word, Brevik let loose several more pulses, blasting dirt and debris into the air on the opposite side of the yellowbole. The terrorist stepped away from the explosions, momentarily forgetting his cover. Three bullets stitched their way from his stomach to his neck, and he dropped.

“Nice shot, kid,” Brevik said. He looked back at the guard shack, and saw several more armed men running from another building towards it, firing from the hip. He pressed the trigger pad, and the Oso roared to life again.

***

GABRIEL’S RETURN is Book 2 of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption, Book 1: Back Office Troubles

February 26, 2012 Leave a comment

When Santander arrived, Gurnett and two other security men had two plant workers seated in chairs in a back office. One of the security men was training an odd-looking handgun at them. As Santander approached, one of the plant workers stood up and pointed. “That’s him, that’s the guy who set me up for this!” he yelled.

The handgun butt smashed into the worker’s stomach, and he sat back down hard, gasping for breath.

Gurnett shook his head and looked back at Santander. “Never learn, do they?”

“No, I suppose not,” he replied, avoiding Gurnett’s face. “So what’s the situation?” he asked the non-gasping individual.

The second worker gulped nervously, looking alternately at the other worker, who was just now catching his breath, and his questioner. “You’re the security chief? You runs things here, right?” he asked.

“Correct,” said Santander, crossing his arms.

“Dural has been pocketing vials, skimming from the top of our production. I walked in on him today. I gave him a chance to explain, but he just threw your name back at me, saying you know all about it, and then accused me of stealing production equipment!”

“So you’re Rechichi?” he asked. “How long have you been here? What’s your position?”

“Four months, sir. I handle post-processing for most of the final compounds, prior to packaging. Same as Dural.” Apparently unsure of where this conversation was going, beads of sweat began to appear on his upper lip.

“And Dural?” Santander asked Gurnett.

“Two years. One of our best men,” he answered.

Rechichi was now sweating profusely, wiping his brow with the sleeve of his shirt. “I’m not lying!”

“No, I don’t think you are,” Santander replied evenly. “Wrong place at the wrong time, I suppose.”

He held his hand out to the security officer, who passed over the handgun. “Codes,” he said. The security officer flashed arming codes for the weapon to Santander’s neuretics, and the handgun powered up.

“Wait!” screamed Rechichi, holding his hands up, palms out, in protest. “You can’t do this!”

Santander raised the weapon, the tingle in the grip indicating it was armed and fully charged. “Of course I can. I run things here, remember?” And he fired.

The handgun wasn’t silenced, so a loud piercing clangggg filled the small office. The depleted uranium pellet shot from the barrel, accelerated by magnetic fields to over six thousand miles per hour, and smashed through the plant worker’s skull. The entry wound was tiny, matching the pellet’s 3 millimeter diameter, but the resulting exit wound wasn’t nearly as neat. The back of Rechichi’s head exploded onto the wall behind him, and his body flew backwards out of the chair, onto a large plastic sheet. A small hole was visible in the back wall, now dripping with brain matter and blood.

Damn, Thao, what the hell is this thing?” Santander asked the security man, looking in wonderment at the weapon.

The security man who had given Santander the gun smiled. “Miniature railgun, sir. Made by Strittmaier out of New Berlin. Newest tech on the market. Undetectable to electronic or neuretic scans too. Cost me a month’s pay to afford it.”

Santander nodded. “I like it. No recoil, that’s fantastic.” He turned it over in his hands a few times. “A little loud though. Gurnett, look into getting some of these. And reimburse Thao for having to buy his own.”

Thao beamed. “Thank you sir.”

Santander looked over at Dural, whose wheezing had completely stopped. Even his breathing had stopped as he stared behind him at the carnage that was his coworker.

“Dural,” Santander said.

Dural’s head snapped back. “Yes, uh, sorry. Thanks Mr. Santander. He just walked in on me, he shouldn’t even have been on shift. Won’t happen again, I know you need those vials, and I’ll keep them coming.”

“I do need those vials. What I don’t need are morons working for me.” He raised the pistol again, and fired twice into Dural’s chest. The body toppled over to rest near Rechichi, two holes blown clean through his chest, the chair back, and the wall. The dual clangs reverberated off the ceiling and walls.

“Hot damn, I love this thing!” he exclaimed, handing it back to Thao. “Gurnett, you gotta get me one. First on the list, hear me?”

Gurnett nodded. “Absolutely. Sorry again to bother you.”

“Not a problem, I needed a little release,” Santander answered. “Nice touch with the plastic sheeting, makes cleanup a lot easier.”

He strode from the room, whistling.

***

GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION is Book 1 of the top-rated science fiction/adventure Gabriel trilogy. Enjoy the scene, like the genre? All three are available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/

Excerpt from Gabriel’s Redemption, Book 1 of Scifi Trilogy – Hand to Hand Combat

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Meanwhile the titanic struggle between Brevik and Rheaves had reached a crescendo. The two bodies were crashing into workstations, chairs splintering under their combined weight. Rheaves was slightly larger, but in the clumsy Chinese battlesuit lost out to Brevik in dexterity. Realizing this, Rheaves attempted to keep the fight close to overwhelm Brevik, but each time he thought he had the upper hand, Brevik slid from his grasp.

The two men separated briefly, panting hard. Brevik’s pulse rifle arm had already been damaged by Rheaves’s first grapple, and Rheaves’s assault rifle was well out of reach. Both men were unarmed, but neither cared.

“Well, old friend,” Rheaves said, gasping for breath. “Is that all you have?”

Brevik gave a dead smile. “It’s all I need. You should have never left the academy. You had potential.”

Rheaves laughed. “Potential. Yeah, potential to get stuck in a dead end job like you?”

Brevik eased closer, preparing for another assault. “I’ve got friends here. You’ve got nothing. One last chance for you. Give it up,” he said.

Rheaves spat on the floor. “Screw you, Harris.” He rushed Brevik.

Brevik caught the big man’s left arm and spun, using Rheaves’s weight and momentum against him. Rheaves twisted awkwardly, crashing into a workstation, and shards of screen glass sprayed in all directions. Brevik gave a hard yank and Rheaves’s armor cracked, the shoulder popping from its socket with a tearing of cartilage. Rheaves bellowed in pain and rage, and pushed up from the workstation’s wreckage with his good arm.

“I’ve lost my patience with you, Harris,” he said, grimacing in pain as his left arm dangled uselessly at his side. He lunged forward, right arm outstretched.

Brevik stepped inside Rheaves’s move, blocking his arm, and punched with all his strength into the center of mass. His combat armor’s servos whined in protest as his own muscles pushed the suit beyond its limits. His armored fist crashed into Rheaves’s chest, and the Chinese-made battlesuit collapsed in on itself. Metal splintered and flakes of paint erupted in a tiny dust cloud.

Rheaves staggered back under the blow and looked down at the ruined chest plate with wide eyes, feeling his cracked sternum and rib cage tearing into his lungs and heart. He fell back into a seated position, coughing and gasping, and clutched at his chest with his functioning arm.

Brevik took a step forward and stood over him, looking down with pity. “Shame you didn’t see it my way,” he said, and gave a kick to Rheaves’s shoulder, toppling him over onto his side. The mercenary gave one last gasp and died.

***

All three Gabriel science fiction-adventure books available for all major ebook platforms, and now paperback: http://steveumstead.com/my-books/