C Burns

Exceprt: Broken Worlds

C Burns
Exceprt: Broken Worlds

The following is an excerpt from Broken Worlds: Book One of The Alorian Wars. You can grab your copy of Broken Worlds here: http://smarturl.it/BrokenWorlds  

Chapter 1: Anki

Each step drew her closer to war, but it was better than waiting for death to kiss her lips and take her breath away with the fiery exhale of a Greshian war vessel. Anki grew up under a regime of fear, not of her own society, but the one coming for them. A childhood wrought from propaganda and secondhand hate formed the woman she would become, but Anki thought of it as strength forged over years of vilifying the Greshian populace. She had never met one of their kind before. The only images she had seen were constructed from pieces of newsfeeds spread across the Alorian stars. Muddled and grainy, those images showed a ghostly flesh-bound entity with seemingly god-like power. Physically, the Greshians did not appear to be much different than her people, but the seeds of contempt painted them as devils nonetheless. Was she prepared to stand face-to-face with the killers of worlds? It was what she yearned for, to stop the enemy in his tracks and proclaim herself the hero. It was not a romanticized notion of bravery that led her to enlist, but the realistic threat of annihilation that made her want to ship out on the next vessel towards the other side of the Alorian Galaxy and give her life to protect Luthia if necessary. Anki was not naïve enough to romanticize death, but she did not fear it either. As the old idiom went, it was what it was.

The moon started to set over Port Carreo, the largest naval port on Luthia. The area was surrounded by water, with giant pillars reaching towards the sky where the ships mated with Luthia to transfer goods without needing to enter the atmosphere. Where the pillars ended was an optical illusion, but Anki often wondered what it would be like to stand on the umbilical and look down upon the world she had never stepped foot off of. It was a dream of hers to take off and look out at Luthia as it grew smaller, less significant to the naked eye than it was when her feet were planted firmly on the ground. But the appeal of seeing the beautiful sphere of her world against a black canvas dotted with stars was pale in comparison to the reason she would ultimately leave her world behind. There was little doubt that she could behold beauty with a war going on, so she buried that desire deep inside and fought the urge to think about it again.

The political climate was evolving every day, and the latest news from the front lines sent a chill down Anki’s spine. The video feed portrayed a world afire, one so far off in the distance that its burn could not be registered without the aid of telescopes and graphic generators despite the perpetual night this time of year on Luthia. Still, there was a sense of doubt that such horrors could be displayed, even for the misdeeds of the hellish pale demons of the Greshian Empire. Luthia had been on the fence about standing up to the Greshians in the beginning, but doing nothing eventually led to choosing sides and with the loss of so many worlds during the Alorian Wars, it was only a matter of time before Luthia felt the burn of indecision.

Sweat poured from Anki’s black hair as she continued her run, her heart beating in her chest hard enough to cause her ears to ring, but she still had several meters to go before she finished her training for the day. She couldn’t afford to be seen as weak, not with her job in the Luthian Navy. Professional killers were as numerous as the stars, but ones with her specialty were a much rarer gem. Luthia had invested in a living weapon, training Anki to take the fight to Greshia or some outlying system, to end the massacre before it spread across the rest of the Alorian Galaxy. It was take the fight to them or worse, having the war in the Luthian system, threatening the lives of every soul on their solitary world. Even with all of her training nothing was guaranteed. If she had any hope for deployment, then she needed to be at the top of her game. War was coming one way or another, but Anki wanted to meet it halfway. The thought tended to bring a smile to her face.

A smaller version of her com-unit, a black and silver band strapped around her wrist, chirped to let her know she had an incoming message. Without breaking stride, she accepted the message swiping her finger across the acrylic glass and a holographic image of her superior, Sergeant Mallara, greeted her. “Good evening, Sergeant Anki Paro. You are receiving this message to let you know there will be a briefing in the morning and your presence is required. Please arrive with a travel bag in hand.” The message ended abruptly and Anki suddenly realized she had stopped running and instead was standing on the track panting for air. She didn’t know if it was nerves about her potential deployment, or if her attention span didn’t allow for physical exertion and life-changing news to be processed simultaneously. It was frustrating either way and she silently chided herself for relenting with the exercise regardless of how brief it had been.

She closed the connection on her com-unit before the message started playing again. This was the fourth mandatory briefing in as many weeks and each time she thought she would be sent out on a vessel to put her skill set to proper use. Each of those times she was sent back to her dorm, disappointed. Still, it stood to reason that eventually she would get the call she had been waiting on ever since she arrived at Port Carreo. A girl could hope, at least.

Anki started running again, this time with a second wind and thoughts about what it might mean to finally deploy. Her thoughts drifted to her father, the only member of her family still talking to her. She knew that the stress of her joining the Luthian Navy was a burden threatening to send him to an early grave. But she also knew he was proud of her and knew what she was capable of. It was the Paro blood in her veins that made her compete so aggressively with herself, and others. If he was honest, her father knew it was his fault that she took after him. It was a bond that could never break. No matter how far out in the Alorian Galaxy she might find herself.

The moon crept up the sky and a chill formed around her. There was a storm brewing and the cold front was pushing it inland. If she was lucky she would have time to get inside before the rain began to fall. Anki ran another five steps before the first drop touched the top of her head. That single drop was followed by a torrential downpour. If the weather was any indication, then luck wasn’t in the cards for her anytime soon.

Anki opened the door to her dorm. It was one step above a barracks room and about twelve steps below what she grew up living in, but it was hers; at least for the time being. She was greeted by the usual AI voice, “Welcome home, Anki. I have maintained the room’s temperature to your preferred setting. You have arrived before your schedule usually dictates. Would you like to receive a cold beverage before your shower?”

The question accompanied the sound of her soaking wet shirt hitting the floor with a moist thud.

“Not yet. Please set the shower to coolness two,” she instructed. She enjoyed voice activated living quarters and preset settings for her day-to-day activities. She knew this type of living wasn’t going to last once she finally shipped out, but as far as she was concerned she could at least enjoy it while it lasted.

The cold water trickled down her body, slightly warming as it filtered through her hair and down her back. Most people enjoyed hot showers to help loosen the tightness in their muscles, but Anki had always been slightly left of the common crowd. Cold showers also helped regulate how much water was used. It kept her honest when it came to conserving water, whereas hot water was far too comfortable to step out of at times. Of course, it could all be in her head and she would spend the same amount of time in the shower regardless, but some truths were just lies you finally convinced yourself of.

Anki stepped out of the shower and into the common space wrapped in a towel. The news feed on her media screen showed more propaganda, more images of Greshian terror inflicted on worlds she otherwise would not have known existed. She was sure whatever world was engulfed in the flames of war had once been as peaceful as Luthia before the great expansion of the Alorian Galaxy. She hadn’t even been born the first time another species revealed itself to her world. Hell, her father, who was born at the time, was too young to remember it, but at least he had been alive for it. Now it seemed that what once seemed like the next step in evolution was devolution as everything burned down around them. This was why she joined the Luthian Navy, to preserve a peace that might otherwise never exist.

She turned up the volume to listen to one of the reporters speak, “…unnecessary violence. Why should we cower before an empire we do not recognize as our authority? Luthia has a rich history of rising above conflicts and rebuilding our society much stronger than it was before. I believe the militarization of our Navy is only the first step at preserving our way of life. If it were up to me, I would militarize our entire society. We dare not allow a Greshian vessel to land on our terra without destroying it!”

It wasn’t a reporter speaking after all, she noticed, once the image moved away from the reporter. The man on the screen was wearing an armband that signified his support for the Luthian Survival Campaign. It was a fringe organization that had a religious affinity for war in the name of freedom. Though Anki didn’t consider herself to side with any kinds of organizations outside the military, she could at least admire the conviction in the man’s words. She found herself nodding her agreement without realizing it.

The newsfeed blacked out as the power failed on Port Carreo. Anki took a deep breath and waited for the alarm to sound. The staccato blast of a claxon met her expectation and without hesitation she left the comfort of her dorm for the relative danger of the incoming attack. Her weapon, perched near the door, accepted her embrace. Through clenched fingers she would rain violence on whatever was coming their way. This moment of anticipation and focus was a reflex of rigorous training, habitual movements predetermined and committed to muscle memory. This was why she had enlisted, to defend Luthia with her life if necessary, but the plan was to make her enemies die first. Deep inside, she knew the claxon sounding was most likely a drill, something to keep the blood pumping to match the horrors scrolling across the feeds as Greshia burned another world into nothing more than scorched pebbles drifting lifeless in the dark. Keeping the fires of patriotism burning made sense to Anki, it was familiar and exhilarating without the threat of actual death. But for a disconcerting moment she wished for something more, for a real fight, anything to let her stretch her legs in a real battle. The thrill of war− the pestilence of civilization− called her name and she wished to answer it with as much enthusiasm as she could muster… more if necessary.

She found herself under the naked sky. Twilight lingered with moments of static scorching the atmosphere as more men and women like her huddled behind cover, some armored and some not, but all armed for incoming. The sky bled electric light as another flash burned her eyes, blinding as quickly as it disappeared. It was another drill, but it felt different, and that difference was alarming. Something triggered in Anki’s mind and her perspective changed. Gone were the parameters of a known enemy. This was a different training tactic, this time the enemy was already at the door, but they weren’t waiting to be let in because it was too late. Luthia had failed to hold the door and now the sky was charged, primed to burn and to destroy. It was only a training exercise, but it felt like a dress rehearsal for something she wasn’t quite ready for.

Death’s kiss.


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About the Author: 

Drew Avera is an active duty Navy veteran and science fiction author. Drew grew up in Mississippi and joined the US Navy at the age of seventeen. As an Aviation Electricians Mate, he has worked on F/A-18s and has worked as in instructor for Super Hornet electrical systems. He has deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Southern Watch, and most recently Operation Inherent Resolve. He has accumulated more than 1,000 days at sea onboard aircraft carriers and those experiences have helped shape his ability to write about ship life in his science fiction. Drew looks forward to retiring in 2020 and hopes to begin a second career writing full-time.

Growing up with a love for comic books and science fiction, Drew knew he wanted to be a writer when he was sixteen and bought “The Incredible Hulk: What Savage Beast” by Peter David. That singular book opened a world of possibilities and a love for reading that finally culminated into writing his own fiction. Drew began his writing career when he turned thirty years old and participated in National Novel Writing Month 2012. He credits NaNoWriMo with giving him the motivation to finally finishing a book and realizing that his dream of becoming a published author was within reach. His first book, Exodus, was published in 2013 and has been described as “Robocop meets Total Recall”. He then moved to writing short fiction and has had stories featured in the bestselling Future Chronicles anthologies: The Immortality Chronicles and Alt History 102. His latest series, The Alorian Wars, is military science fiction and space opera for fans of The Expanse, Firefly, and Star Trek.