SADER Post 4

“It’s really not a good idea, Clarisse.”

“Why not?”

“You know this tradition thing is like 50 years old, right?”

“The ADWARCOMM Basketball Tournament is a military tradition. SPECF divisions are allowed to play.”

“The SADERs are not a normal SPECF division. You bring them into the tournament and all—”

Clarisse wiggled a finger. “You know how I feel about swearing.”

Peddie wiggled on in return. “Wiggling fingers? Aren’t you in a fickle mood.”

“Why shouldn’t I be? My SADERs are going to play in the tournament. It’ll be an excellent teamwork and physical experience.”

“You and I both know that this isn’t about that. They’ve got the best teamwork the universe’s ever seen and their in top shape. You want to beat Special Directive 17. That’s…what’s his name this time? Trane’s group.”

Clarisse could not mask her smile. “Maybe.”

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SADER Post 3

Five figures dropped from the low flying craft. As soon as they cleared the darkened drop bay, the ship peeled off, making for the upper atmosphere. Anti-craft missiles traced after it, but its engines burned hot and managed to escape to the vacuum. Not meant for space travel, the missiles burned out and exploded, covering the craft’s escape.

The five figures freefell for as long as they dared, waiting for the explosion of the missiles far overhead to activate their rocket packs for short, powerful bursts. The sensors of the enemy would be so focused on the heat overhead they would hopefully miss those of the SADER squad that had slipped behind their lines.

Far above the surface of the planet, Clarisse Halling stood in an observation bay of the command dreadnought, the Decartes. She saw the dropship return to the hangar. Moving her gaze and fingers to the screen on her wrist, she quickly hacked the ship’s records, removing evidence that the ship had even entered the planet’s atmosphere. As far as the Advanced War Commission, ADWARCOMM, was concerned, the SADER dropship had simply been testing an engine modification, a fairly routine thing for the mod-happy mechanics that serviced the vessels.

Her tracks covered, Clarisse brushed a stray hair back into her ponytail. Lucky Squad had made it safely to Targus-4. Now it was up to them.

The leader of Aleph Squad, her personal bodyguards, moved to her side, his helmet at his side. His four companions stood behind her, watching the entrances to the room with never-failing vigilance.

“Ma’am? Is something wrong?” The man’s—young man’s—name was Kyle. His last was that of his squad. Kyle Aleph.

Clarisse, for all intents and purposes Kyle’s mother, shook her head slightly.

Kyle, sensing her need to be alone with her thoughts, dipped his head and stepped back, but she turned with his movement.

After studying him for a moment, she gestured to the planet. “Lucky Squad was inserted only minutes ago. As you know, that is violation of the standing orders of SPECF.”

He didn’t respond. He, like most SADERs, trusted Clarisse’s judgment over that of her superiors in the ranks of ADWARCOMM.

She continued. “But those orders are unnecessary. Why would anyone want to attempt to attack the guerilla camp? They have no dangerous tech, no off-planet transport, no political or media support…so someone is hiding something. Lucky Squad will find out what.”

Clarisse’s wrist-computer beeped. A summons to the command bridge. She acknowledged, even though the officer-in-charge of the Descartes was in no respect her superior. He would not have called her if there wasn’t a good reason.

Aleph Squad fell in, three in front, two behind, guiding and guarding Clarisse Halling, mastermind of the Lifetime Project, to the command bridge deep in the center of the ship.

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SADER Excerpt 2

The black craft lay silent in the vacuum of space.

As the tiny transport approached, the name of the ship came into the light of the far-off sun, the huge painted letter dwarfing the shuttle.

PRC-Mao. The People’s Republic of China’s Mao.

It was one of the behemoths of another age, the antimatter-fueled giants that finished Earth’s final resources—and carried humanity to it new home scattered among the stars.

The main living area of the ship was huge. A titanic oval with multiple levels of ecosystems, living area for millions, and a main generator the size of several old earthen cruise ship.

The generator, of course, was offline, a much smaller and more powerful reactor in its place.

The Mao had run on antimatter—the most powerful substance discovered at the time—and as such had needed a cooling system like no other. The real bulk of the Mao was not in its main decks.

It was in the cooling system, system of gigantic pipes and braces stretching miles into space—half the length of the former state of Florida.

It had a great history. Ferrying Earth’s inhabitants, escaping the Sol System for new systems seeded with the fruit of earth. Planets ripe for colonization.

But then it was abandoned, left to drift endlessly, or to be scavenged by pirates for its metal. It’s location was forgotten, its name lost to history.

Clarisse Halling had found it.

The Mao was her ship now. It did not move in space—the engines hadn’t been activated in a hundred years—and most of the ship’s decks were still silent and abandoned. But some hummed with new, updated life.

Holographic chambers, living and training areas, various artificial ecosystems, mock-up generators, labs, miniature factories, gigantic banks of computer and communication consoles…it was everything she needed and more.

Everything necessary for the creation of a new idea.

Everything necessary for the Lifetime Project.

Everything necessary for the forging of the SADERs.

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Pack, Part 31: Turning Point 2

“It all makes sense! The SWAT teams. The subway…they’re leading us on.” Justin felt fear in his chest. “We’ve made the future—one they’ve planned for.”

Amber had stopped moving her hands over Buncombe’s wound while Justin was speaking, but the blue light continued to flow as Iridess worked through her companion. “Buncombe…what if he’s right? The SWAT team didn’t seem to be shooting to kill. They seemed to be trying to force me to the subway.”

Buncombe ran his fingers over his moustache, thinking. Then he snapped his fingers. Then he winced as the flesh over his bullet wound closed. “Thanks.” Then, “You’re missing two things, Justin. First, there’s Tobias. Why would be risk himself? He’s their Prophet! And his companion is their Warrior! If this was a trap, why didn’t he just send in his police cronies? No, chaps, we’re on to something.”

“The subway,” Justin cried. “What about the subway we’re sitting in right now!”

“Standing in,” Buncombe corrected. “And here’s how I know. I’m the one who called this subway in. I have a contact in the transportation bureau. This is our ticket into whatever Connor is trying to protect. At the last station we’ll find something. The thing Daldion sensed.”

Connor turned the cellphone off. He had many—and the he had just finished speaking on only had one number in its directory. The current Mayor of New York City.

A convenient blackmail job, conducted by the ex-Prophet Tobias Tory, had brought the rather greedy man under Connor’s control. Of course the mayor thought it was a man higher up in the state hierarchy who as controlling him, but Connor never saw fit to dispel that illusion.

It was he who had arranged the SWAT teams, the clearing of the subway stations…and the maintenance order for a certain subway car.

Returning his gaze to the screen he watched the lone subway car pull into the empty station, open its door, close them, and leave. No one exited. Perfect.

The last station was just ahead—where his team waited. Where Connor’s secret was kept. And beyond that…the empty unused side tunnel heading under the bay to nowhere but a dead end.

Connor turned another of his several cellphones on. “Hiram, Sarai. They are coming your way. Your team ready?”

The audio crackled—subways were no known for good connections. But the affirmative was given. It was nearly time. It had been too long since he had hunted his enemies…

The man leaned back in his chair. Soon…

The doors of the subway car opened.

And the air ignited with the power of the Thin Places.

The wolves took form, blue light cocooning them, wrapping them in energy. The eight members of the Pack stepped from the car. But it didn’t leave—it remained at its place, at the near end of the line.

Ruler, Prophet, Watcher, Judge, Healer, Seeker, Warrior, Teacher.

Facing them were Sarai and Hiram. They looked calm. As if they hadn’t even recognized that mere minutes before Tobias had been killed.

But the wolves beside them were ready to fight. They too were constructs of blue light, only able to exist in the Thin Places without their human counterparts.

A voice echoed from the station’s PA system. “You always underestimated, Buncombe. You always were too confident in your judgment, your abilities.” Connor’s disembodied voice paused. “In a way, you are insane.”

“All the best men are,” Buncombe retorted, his hands curling into fists. “Show yourself! This ends here!”

In reply there was a sudden boom, the shattering sound reverberating down the subway tunnel they had come from. The tunnel had been blown.

“For you, perhaps,” said Connor, his tone low.

Justin, standing beside the form of Daldion, blinked as images flashed in his mind.

Fire. Water. War. Death.

Death follows war.

He backed up a step unconsciously, looking down to Daldion. The Prophet nodded. “The even foreseen is being fulfilled now. It is up to us how it will play out. Death follows war. We must back down.”

Buncombe trembled. “Connor…”

But the man’s voice was heard no more. The Thin Places shivered as Sarai and Hiram retreated, moving back up the station, back up the steps, away from the full Pack that stood arrayed before them.

Then, at the top of the steps, a form appeared. A man, not tall, but sharp. Connor Halling. He was smiling.

A collective roar came from the mouths of the wolves. Teeth were bared. The whole pack was caught in the power of it—ready to charge.

“Death follows war!” Justin yelled. The roar was cut off—as if it had been sliced in two. All head turned to Justin.

Buncombe’s eyes were fiery. Rage seemed to permeate his being. “His death, Justin. Not ours. Not today!”

“He’s had his death. Tobias is dead. Now…now it’s our turn. We have to back down! Fight another day.”

There was no murmur of agreement.

Justin was desperate. “I am the Ruler! I’m supposed to be in charge! I say we leave! We don’t know what he’s planned. He’s manipulated everything!”

He knew he had played the wrong card. Rigel and Zerihun turned away from him, and Francisco only checked his pistol.

Buncombe stared at him with something like pity. “Then run, Ruler. If it has to be this way…farewell.”

Then, Francisco and their companions beside them, they ran towards Connor.

Amber stayed, as did Iridess and Daldion.

And the fire began. The station began to tear itself apart. Hidden explosives tore through concrete and steel, even into the blue light of the Thin Places. The attackers dodged and weaved through the wreckage, but they had chance of getting through.

Justin hit the ground as a shockwave knocked him off his feet. He hit the ground with a thud—the breath leaving him.

A pair of hands grabbed him, dragged him back into the subway car. The explosions seemed endless, ripping the room into smaller and smaller pieces. Glass shattered as the windows of the car were blown out.

From the smoke came buncombe and Francisco. One was helping hold the other up—Francisco holding Buncombe.

They had almost reached the subway car, almost made it into the protective light of the Thin Places exuded by Amber and Justin, then there were two shots.

Connor, standing far across the station and out of range of the explosions, was an excellent shot.

Francisco collapsed, his eyes dim before he hit the ground. Buncombe fell—the piece of steel embedded in his side pushed deeper by his fall. He screamed in pain, falling just short of the doors.

Justin reached out, clasping Buncombe’s hand, pulling him through the closing doors as a final explosion tore the waiting area apart, denting the side of the car.

A piece of stone exploded through the side of the car as it accelerated. It clipped Justin on the cheek as he tried to help Buncombe to his feet. Tearing through his skin, it sent him spinning, knocking him from the speeding car—out of the smashed window.

The car was going fast, far too fast that was safe. And up ahead was a dead end.

Amber turned desperately to Buncombe. The metal was too deeply embedded—they both knew that.

The older man nodded to her, a slight smile touching his face, then turned away, reaching for an object on the seat above him.

Amber handed Buncombe his top hat, a tear sliding from her eye. He said something, them weakly pushed her away.

She nodded, braced herself, and jumped through the window Justin had fell from, her body smashing against the side of the tunnel. More than one bone broke.

Buncombe managed to pull himself up to a seat, where he lay, gasping. The light flickered as the car went faster and faster, accelerating to a blur. Then it reached the end of the maintenance tunnel, and exploded.

Justin, lying half-conscious, bleeding from more places than he could count, in more pain that he had ever felt, felt the Thin Places shudder as Buncombe died, as Francisco, back on the station, breathed his last.

It was like an explosion—the old man didn’t go quietly. And then Justin understood. With his dramatic parting, Buncombe tried to win one final victory over Connor.

He hoped to make him believe Justin was dead.

And, Justin thought with the last of his energy as a pair of hands began to drag him painfully towards a door in the tunnel wall, Amber too.

End of Part 1

Well, to those who may have been reading this, what do you think so far? How’d you like this twist? I had a hard time writing it, but there you go.

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SADER Excerpt

An excerpt of a novel I might write, perhaps for NaNo. We’ll see–I like the idea.

 

“This is your result?”

The three men were generals—such was denoted by the myriad of colors that decorated their lapels. All three were tall, heavily muscled, and scarred from years of combat. All had bled for their rank.

The woman sitting across from them was positively civilian. Her clothes were modest—a simple outfit of loose-fitting gray clothes—all unmarked. But sitting at the far end of the conference table, she replied to the three men with a clipped voice—one used to being obeyed.

“Yes.”

The men tried hard to stay serious, to stay stolid. But they failed, anger and embarrassment alternating on their faces.

Finally one worked up the calm to speak. “Twenty years ago a project was initiated—SPECF Special Action Directive 11—and placed under your control. Your sole control.”

“I take full responsibility for my result if you are trying to find somewhere to lay blame, general.” The woman nodded her head, the streaks of gray making her seem older than she was. “But there will be no blame. The project is a success.”

“So you claim.” The next general in line was heavily tanned. Fighting on one of the closer colonies no doubt. “Do you realize how much money the Directory has pumped into your science project?”

The woman leaned forward. “It will all be worth it. Every daih will be paid for in lives.”

“Ours or our enemies’?” The soldier’s voice was grim.

“I think you know which…sir. I have been investigated multiple times by your SD3. I’ve passed every test of loyalty you’ve put before me.”

The general, commander of the SD3 intelligence service, shook his head. “They mean nothing if the subject is aware of the test.”

“So I am a traitor because I’m smarter than your agents?”

“No one has accused you of being a traitor.” The third man spoke for the first time. His was older than the first two—his balding head the sign of a lifetime military man. “However there have been worries that your SD11 is merely an expensive ploy at gaining a personal army.”

The woman laughed.

The older man continued. “You started with 1000 infants—war orphans. Then, seven years later, you returned half to us.”

“Cutting the projected return in half,” interjected the tanned general.

“Then you did it again at year 14. Then again at year 17 of the project. You cut your army down to 125 men.”

“120,” the woman interjected. “I culled five more. They’ll be relocated to civilian occupations within the week.”

“120 men, then. Hardly the invincible fighting machine you promised. But perhaps enough for a personal army.”

“I promised the best. They will be the best. Better than any of your armies of 1000. ” The woman stood. “You will wait one more year. Then they will be ready.”

“We have waited a long time for your result, Clarisse Halling. Your Special Action Directive 11 Results need to be in the war, where they belong.” The old general’s voice was low.

“You can wait a bit longer. Think of it this way: you can keep your jobs for a year more before my Results oust your agents.” Turning away, the woman headed for the door.

As it hissed open, Clarisse Halling said over her shoulder, “And I remind you– Special Action Directive 11 Results is only a technical name. The name they will be known by—the name all will know them by—is…SADER.”

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Pack, Part 30: Turning Point 1

Buncombe waited for Justin’s heaving chest to calm. Then, not unkindly, he said, “We have to move. They’ll know he’s gone.”

Justin nodded, his face pale, his hands shivering. He had felt the twist, the twang in the fabric of the world beyond the mundane, as Tobias had breathed his last.

At Justin’s hand.

Daldion clamped down on the thought, ordering Justin to move, to rejoin reality.

“Walk.”

He just had to move on. Ignore what he had done—there were lives at stake. His own, Buncombe’s, Amber’s, Francisco’s… Lives that to protect he might have to kill. Such was war.

The Art of War never mentioned this. Never spoke of the numbness and cold that killing brought. The bloody thoughts that rose even as he tried to walk towards the subway line. War had been strategy, impersonal, and a battle of wills—a complicated game. A game.

But as the revelation slowly fell over him, Justin realized it was a game only for generals and politicians and rulers. It was the soldier, the man on the ground, that had to effect the pieces’ moves. And down there, on the ground, it was dirty.

Buncombe stopped at the tracks and stared up and down the tunnel. Justin’s subway had left long before, but no rumble in the tracks indicated the arrival of another. One hand held the graze on his side, slowing the small trickle of blood. The red as startling against his brown skin.

Then Buncombe’s head snapped around, his eyes flickering to the entrance to the subway. “Get down,” he snapped, drawing his pistol again. The Berretta was already loaded and ready—Buncombe moved to the nearest pillar as Justin crouched against a corner watching for whatever Buncombe had heard or sensed.

There.

Four men—no—eight. Two squads, moving slowly down the stairwells and into the doorways of the subway station. At first Justin could only see their black boots, but then their heavily armored bodies and helmeted heads came into view. SWAT.

Justin looked to the weapon that Buncombe had replaced in his shoulder holster. He knew how to use it and carried several new clips in his pockets. Not that he would need them—he had only fired one shot.

But if he did—if he had to exchange fire with the heavy rifles of the NYPD—he probably wouldn’t have a chance to reload, let alone fire all the bullets in a clip.

A lone subway car was scraping into position, and the SWAT team switched their gazes to it, moving down deeper into the station. Buncombe held a finger to his lips, nodding at Justin.

Three. Two. One.

There was a shock in the world. Like things were shivering, like the whole earth was suddenly fluid. A glow was thrown over the light, dimming it, but also illuminating in a different way. Everything was defined, all the edges clear and distinct, their true natures laid bare.

The SWAT men noticed it—but it was obvious they couldn’t see the blue like Justin could—they couldn’t see the Thin Places as it cast a shadow over reality as they knew it.

But they did see the four figures that seemed to materialize out of thin air—wolves. One white, one black, one gray, one brown. Iridesss, Zerihun, Daldion, and Rigel.

They opened fire, blowing holes in the tile and concrete floor as the four figures scattered, heading in all different directions.

The men were well trained. The stayed together, stayed in their strengths, firing bursts at the blurs that seemed to be circling them. But their shots always seemed to miss, the lead skittering to the left or right at each crucial split-second.

But they weren’t missing because the wolves moved to fast. They missed because the wolves weren’t really there.

“I really should work on a better illusion of myself,” Daldion said. “My ears are far too large.”

“I despise putting my visage on a fallen creature,” Rigel rumbled.

Despite himself, Justin blurted, “Fallen?”

“Their wolfish cousins we know as regular bloody wolves. They are far less…original…than our companions. Just as we, being bonded with them, become something else too. A step up, as it were. Or a step down. It is our choice.”

Amber stepped from the subway car, one eye on the SWAT men still shooting up the subway, both hands on her Glock. “If you’ve finished your biology lesson, we should be moving on.”

The doors began to close but a heavy figure blocked them—Francisco.

The trio moved into the subway and the doors closed softly. Outside the shooting stopped and the confusion began.

“This mission is blown.” It was the Latin American. “We should get out while we can.”

Justin opened his mouth to agree. To ask. To plead—to get out of the subway station, but Buncombe spoke first.

“No…no…no. This can’t be it. There has to be something more. Daldion saw New York. What happens here?”

“Tobias is dead,” Justin said. Francisco and Amber’s eyes turned to him. “I killed him. Isn’t that something?”

“Not enough,” Buncombe insisted. “You saw the SWAT teams. They had to be on Halling’s payroll. He’s hiding something. We suddenly arrive and start riding his subway, he panics. He calls in a few favors and gets the stations cleared and a few teams to check them out.”

Justin suddenly felt a lump in his chest.

“No. That’s not it. This whole thing was a set up. This was a trap.”

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Pack, Part 29: SWAT

Connor felt the tremor. The Thin Places shifting as a member of his pack was slain. The anger of Archmoore as his mind was banished from action into the world of between where there was no feeling.

Halling smiled. He felt for Archmoore—he had experienced the pain of nothing. His companion Marduk seemed to exude it. The emptiness…

Connor blinked. It wasn’t like him to be introspective. Not at times like this—with an operation in full swing.

He sat in a van across the street from the last subway station on the line. Monitors lit his solitary form, the blue light lining the edge of his clothes.

Turning his attention to the screen displaying the station where Tobias had been stationed. Tobias was down as he had suspected, his white shirt stained dark, his eyes visible even on the grainy screen of the camera.

He shifted his eyes to view the monitor two places down. Perfect. The next subway was just arriving. A single car.

Connor adjusted a reed mike that sat on the fold-down table before him. He spoke three words. “Team 1. Go.”

Amber started, her hand moving towards her pistol. A Glock 18

There were sounds on the stairs of the subway. Not the quiet steps of a late-coming worker. The unified tromp of boots.

She had heard it before, on the reservation. During dances, when the group of young men and women learned their culture.

But the dancers then had not been dressed in black SWAT armor.

Amber ducked as the three men raised their weapons and a hail of bullets struck the wall to her left. The three spread out, covering the angles. Amber finally managed to get her weapon from its holster and cocked it.

She poked her head out and fired twice, trying to clear a path. Another burst of bullets to the left forced her back…to the right.

What were they saying?

Amber closed her eyes. Sensing. Seeking. A way of escape.

Her head snapped around. A subway, one car. Possibly heading for maintenance. Her way out.

Amber set her weapon to fully automatic. Connor must have called the SWAT in. He certainly had the influence. He wanted to spread the team out. Kill them one at a time.

She would have to move fast. Really, really fast.

She feinted, firing a burst to the left. As she heard the three SWAT men swinging out to return fire she ducked to the right, sprinting for the next pillar. The men seemed caught off guard.

The tile wall shattered directly behind her, a large fragment of tile slicing a thin line across her cheek.

The blood was sucked back into her body almost as fast as it left.

“Faster…” came Iridess’ voice.

A new burst of energy—adrenaline—filled Amber’s legs. She first a long burst, finishing her clip, to keep the SWAT’s heads down.

She dived to the floor, her slick tan overcoat skidding her over the damp concrete. Into the closing doors of the subway car. She lay on the floor, gasping, as the car continued to the next station.

Then she remembered Francisco’s weapon’s training. Always have your gun ready. She loaded and new clip and cocked the weapon.

Francisco sensed the coming of the SWAT team long before he heard or saw them. The sounds of the outside filtered down into the nearly-abandoned station. It had been a rumbled of cars’ engine, horns, the footsteps and voices of passersby. Then it had changed tones.

The clip snapped into his weapon. It was a specially modified pistol—built by old comrades in the jungles. The clip was large—too large to be carried inside the weapon. He carried it in a separate part of his coat. He had another weapon, a small revolver, but he preferred to use it when he didn’t have to prepare himself. Now he did.

The SWAT team came down the stairs, covering each other. They headed towards the waiting area, obviously following whatever information they had been given.

Francisco smirked from behind the vending machine. Organized military always put too much stock in intelligence. They had to be looking for him. There weren’t any other fugitives in New York that warranted the kind of power that a SWAT team could bring.

Francisco knew. If there were he would have been in a bar sharing some tequila with them.

And the SWAT team was alone. No sirens or regular police for backup. So they weren’t on the grid—this was a special mission, unsanctioned.

They were looking for him.

“They are wearing standard-issue NYPD Kevlar SWAT armor. Your pistol will penetrate it easily. Assuming you are accurate, we will we able to end this…conflict…easily.”

Zerihun’s analysis of the situation was cold. “Drop them.”

Francisco raised his weapon, aiming at the back of the first man.

The policeman was probably as good citizen. Maybe an uncle. Maybe a father. Maybe an uncle. A man just following orders. But he was following the orders from the wrong man. The SWAT man was just unlucky. Wrong time, wrong place.

Francisco fired, his custom-made bullets blowing a hole in the man’s back, then his chest. The huge bullets tore through the armor like it was paper.

The second man fell before the last two could turn.

Zerihun steadied Francisco’s arm, calmed his mind. Helped to cushion the jerk of the gun.

The third spun away, his shoulder throwing up a red mist.

The last man got a burst of his weapon off before Francisco’s final shot took him in the gut. He keeled over, groaned.

Walking slowly over to his attackers, Francisco examined his handiwork. Two were dead—beyond saving. But the others might live.

He pulled a cell phone from his pocket and called 911.

Then, seeing the arriving subway car, entered it.

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