*** Get 3 BOOKS FREE > lazloferran.com/3fb *** Book 1 Running: The Alien in the Mirror is FREE on Google Play. A man hell-bent on revenge for the death of his friend, in battle! Seeking revenge for the death of a friend ten long years ago, Major Jake Nanden has pursued his own personal demons with an almost religious fervour through life and through battle. He is a soldier so highly decorated that his fame reaches far beyond the desolate moon Io where he is stationed. His victories in the Jupiter Wars are hollow though, for he is a man scared of his own soul. His life seems to be a trap from which he cannot escape. His is the Replicant Company, and replicants are despised by all. Likened to a cross between Blade Runner and Paths of Glory, you simply must read this beautifully constructed, intensely dark and powerful Science Fiction tale-with-a-twist if you love Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. From the author: I have long had a soft-spot for noir films so I decided to write a noir science fiction novel. I also love Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and Phillip K Dick - particularly Blade Runner, all for their quirky stories but deep-rooted scientific authenticity. The result is Too Bright the Sun, which I am very proud of. Ultimately, I think it is a very beautiful story of one replicant struggle for identity and the surprising outcome. If you love character-driven science fiction, you will love the twist at the end. Volume III in the Iron Series: Worlds Like Dust will be published early in 2014 Categories: fiction, science fiction, thriller, first contact, clones, starship, mlitary. Sample It’s been over ten years since Gary Enquine sent my friend Przeltski to a certain death. Not one day has gone by without the memories of that battle prowling my mind like a waking nightmare. Many times I have woken in a cold-sweat thinking about it. I will not rest, cannot rest, until Gary Enquine has been brought to justice and been forced to pay for his cowardice. Ten years; it’s a long time but I can be patient. Personal journal entry of Jake Nanden for 2101, Feb 3. 1. *** Chapter One The little voice asked, after peering out of another portal at an earlier moment in his life, “Is it possible to time travel for I perceive that I can?” “Only after you leave this life,” said a voice, high and mighty. Then the little voice changed its tone for it was angry. “But that’s not fair! For, the one thing I wish I can’t have.” “Until you leave this life,” said the high voice. “Yes.” “Then now you can see advantages to moving beyond this life you have.” And the little voice perceived that all his previous angers, about matters of the flesh and daily living were not proper angers. A proper anger is the anger that desirable things lay beyond the portal of death. And so from that moment on his struggles to survive, to fight against the current, seemed improper to him and yet he could not help himself. Two of the Ionian Militia sat on top of Przeltski, ripping his helmet off, while another aimed his laser at his eyes. In the vacuum of Io’s atmosphere, Przeltski was mouthing the words, ‘save me’ but it was too late. I knew I couldn’t and had to try and save myself. I was turning to get away but I could still see his eyes half closing, then looking up and his mouth rapidly shaping the words of the ‘Hail Mary.’ The IM would turn their lasers down to the lowest setting and first shoot out the eyes, then take off the arms and if he was lucky then they would aim for his heart. If he was not lucky, the dismemberment could go on and on for as long as they wanted. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. I struggled and struggled and then I was awake and knew it was the nightmare. *** An eye opened. It was mine. The blurry horizon crystallised into the edge of the pillow as I realised where I was: Io. Being a commander has its perks, one being your own private cabin, but it was small and cramped. I closed my eye, reached up for the ledge of the sill above me and hauled myself out of bed. Feeling for the sanicube-handle opposite the bed, I released the cube from its folded position against the wall, selected ‘L’ and stepped in but then had to open my eyes to use it without spilling. A tube dispensed a sterilising solution onto my hands and the stream of water became hot air to dry them. Yawning enough for tears to clear my eyes, I took one step over to the n-gen, on the white work surface above the bed. I selected ‘Fried,’ then ‘Coffee, black’ and clicked on, the com centre. I had disabled the voice but I could see the display said, “2101, Feb 4. 2 – 06.30 I. 2 messages. Download?” I waited for the ding that would tell me my breakfast was ready. I knew I had just had another weird dream but I couldn’t quite remember it now. I tried. The n-gen dinged and I opened the white door to reveal the plate of hot, fried food and a mug of black coffee. I looked at the food dubiously and lifted the dark blue mug to my lips. The caffeine rush to my head felt good. Putting my left hand on my hip, I arched my back and then looked down at the pallid skin stretched over my late-twenties belly. ‘Bigger,’ I thought. ‘But only slightly.’ I picked up the plate of fried – bacon, eggs, potatoes, beans, fried-bread and mushrooms – all preselected as my personal preferences and lifted some mushrooms and potatoes to my mouth with the forkette. My buds tested the taste; it had that slight hint of mint or something metallic about it. “Damn,” I said out loud. For a few days now breakfast had tasted like this and I wasn’t sure if it was a fault with the n-gen or this batch of plasma. My n-gen was civvy and another one of the perks allowed to commanders; I’d had it for nearly five years and it had been everywhere with me. Normally they didn’t last longer than three years. Balancing the plate in my left hand, I picked up the remote, pressed ‘Monitor,’ chose ‘North elevation,’ then ‘R’ for recording and ‘Dec 9, 11.00,’ morning on the day we had arrived, a date I chose out of habit. I then pointed it at the panel, shaped like a window, on the narrow wall behind the pillow of the bed and it was filled with the image of the ground to the north of the command-post. Just like a window, you could even see ‘around’ the window frame if you wished to put your head that close to it. Yellow and reddish sulphur stretched away between the rocky silicates, to a jagged horizon a few hundred yards above the level of the command-post and perhaps two miles away. In places the silicate rock was white and in others a beautiful emerald green. If it hadn’t been for the bright purplish glow of the morning aurora above, I could have believed I was in the Mojave Desert on Earth, which was in a memory I had of visiting my grandparents once. Taking bigger mouthfuls, with my nostrils closed to avoid the nasty after-taste, I downed the breakfast and alternated my gaze between the landscape on the wall and the contents of the room. I took in the half-finished bottle of vodka next to the empty glass on the narrow table across the gang-way from my bed and the open notepad next to it with a few scrawled lines at the top of a new page. Writing pulp crime-novels was my weakness, or my hobby, depending on one’s generosity. I had finished the fried so I continued sipping black coffee and put on the Trion head-band, activating it by flicking a tiny black switch next to my left temple. “Record,” I said. Most company commanders, at least in USAC, were obliged to record their activities for viewing by paid subscribers; part of a deal USAC had made with the Amtel branch of RA. Most hated doing it but at least you could choose what to record and I never gave the leaches anything of real interest. The recording was made by a cam in the comms centre so a leach couldn’t see what was on my heads-up. “Download,” I said. A red light flickered once on the com centre. On the heads-up display in front of my left eye scrolled the first of two messages: Contact: Jena Ω “Hi Jake. I know you’re trying to make me jealous by not replying to my last messages but then again you could just be under attack and I’m supposed to be the rational woman so I can deal with that. I might just be too busy this week to record anything for you too. My boss wants me to prepare a legal-briefing for our merger with a company which has connections with Riccard-Amtel! Can you believe it? Oh I know we try not to bring business into our relationship but I couldn’t help myself. The consequences could be so far-reaching. Promotion, relocation. Who knows? Umm. In answer to your question last time; okay I’ve held out for quite a while haven’t I but yes, women do feel that sometimes. I suppose... Tell me more about what you do... Not during the day (with the boyz and grrls) but after. Are you still writing? Chloe misses u too. xx” End. Contact: Mary “Hi darling Mum here. How’s the (censored) winter? I know this will probably be censored but I don’t care. There’s lots to tell you but I'll keep it short for now. I’m just off to a local council meeting and later there's an art exhibition, Raccauld, which Justine and I are going to. Actually I’m meeting her for coffee at lunchtime. I think she wants to do some shopping. You know what she’s like. You cannot stop her once hubby has been paid. The Gazette had a nice photo of you the other day which I have stuck in the photo album. You’re a hero around here. The young boys talk of nothing else but the Iron Cross, I hear them when we go for picnics by the river. Oh yes and Robert O’Flannery has been elected Mayor again and has approved redevelopment of the area by the river. Office block I believe. Such a shame. One thing I was going to mention. A peculiar thing happened the other day...” There was a loud banging on the cabin-door which made me flinch. “Stop record,” I said and ignored the rest of the message in the heads-up. I took two steps to the door and opened it. Sergeant Stone’s chiseled face, topped with a brown flat-top and with shaving foam around its cheeks, confronted me. He was dressed only from the waist down. “Yes Sergeant?” I tried to sound patient. “Sir. Seismic activity detected 700 yards east of perimeter. About 100 feet down.” “Okay. Pick four men and get packed. I’ll be with you in five.” “Sir? We can investigate if you want. You don’t need to come.” “No but I want to come. I need the exercise.” “Sir.” There was no salute. I was informal with my troops most of the time in combat situations, especially the officers and Stone in particular, who had been with me a long time. *** “Lieutenant Osei, you have the comm.” We were in the port airlock five minutes later, myself unshaven, all in full-combat gear and Sergeant Stone handed me a Trion X.50. As the red light moved to ‘Gravity-local,’ we all grabbed the hand rails. Gravity on Io was about one fifth of that on Earth or about the same as the Moon and without the S-Grav, the rocking motion of the lift as it took us down to the surface would throw us about. The hatch opened and I led the team out into the moonlit night. I could feel the crunch of sulphur and silicates under my boots but all I could hear was my breath and the steady beep, every two seconds of the uplink indicator. We used a two-step canter to move over the terrain in a defensive pattern of two columns of three, ten feet apart. It was enough distance to give covering fire in all directions without hitting each other if needed. What we were looking for was any sign of a drill rig at the indicated distance of 700 yards. The Ionian Militia (see Appendix for more on the Ionian Militia) normally didn’t have the resources for automated rigs so there would be two or three poor bastards manning it, armed with A.M. 27s most probably. They would be targeting our S-Grav singularity, 1000 feet below the MCS – a known Mob. Command Station weakness. Our MCS was fitted with S-Grav Type 4 which was a lot more stable than the Type 3; its governor was accurate to 14-10 Volts, which it had to be to keep the singularity weak enough to be safe but strong enough to work effectively. *** Database download on the Ionian Militia: The Ionian Militia (IM) was formed by miners on Io, moon of Jupiter on June 1 2089. Their living conditions were already touch but falling iron prices led to smaller pay-rises and longer hours. They went on strike and in the long summer of 2080 Earth News bulletins were full of items about iron shortages and skirmishes between USAC troops and miners on IO. Led by Richard Ortega, the miners demanded some concessions, most prominent being that their families could live with them. This was granted but shortly after their families arrived, the miners were subjected to further pay-cuts and reductions in supply of essential equipment. From the Ionian Iron Miners Union was formed the Ionian Miner's Union, led by Ortega. This powerful union then began receiving equipment and other supplies directly from the Rebel Alliance on Earth, a move that was seen as highly provocative by the USAC forces, then in administrative control on Io and then attempted to block these supplies and suppress resistance using overpowering force. From the Ionian Miner's Union Ortega then formed the Ionian Militia, a small but highly trained and well-equipped force which operated using guerrilla tactics against USAC. The force gradually grew in size and strength until, ten years later, they are a significant force on Io, controlling one half of its surface. Only a few mines remained loyal to USAC, raising Solar System prices of iron and putting an end to the building of the great J stations. End Download. *** Micro-singularities were inherently unstable anyway for safety reasons but the governor itself was the only real vulnerability in the Type 4. By necessity it was located in the column only a few inches from the singularity and if it could be damaged by a small explosion, then there was a good chance the singularity would run away and if it grew rather than shrank, the result would be a massive explosion. Several MCSs had been knocked out this way. The militia squad wouldn’t be a problem but I wanted to be fully alert. My vision was still a bit blurry and I blinked a few times and squeezed my lids shut to lubricate my eyes. My stubble itched on the fabric inside the helmet. 500 yards out I raised my hand and we stopped. I pointed to the Sergeant and two of the corporals in their tan-coloured combat suits and motioned for them to move south of the target location which appeared to be behind a slight bluff. I motioned to the other two officers to follow me north. I was sure Stone would spread his men out a little, standard procedure, and I did the same as we flanked the bluff. I thought I could see a faint plume of yellow dust rising, the usual tell-tale sign of a drill-rig, but it was very faint and I wasn’t sure. I crouched down and tapped the shoulder of the soldier in front of me. I pointed at the faint plume and he turned to face me and he nodded. We tried not to kick up any dust ourselves as we rounded the shoulder of the bluff and the soldier in front held up his hand and stopped. This was it. They were there. His gloved fingers counted down three, two, one and then he moved forward, aiming his X.50 at something as I followed him, pointing mine in the same direction. As I emerged into the dip behind the bluff I saw what I had expected, a low wall of sulphur-dirt around a square dugout, perhaps ten feet along each side, with a cover slung over it to collect the dust. There was one helmet peering through the gap, straight at us. I saw the red beam from his A.M. 27 strike the helmet of the corporal and then the sighting beam turned green as the plasma shot was fired. But he was too slow. The corporal had already jumped, done a one-eighty and was coming down with his X.50 blazing green. I fired too. The poor armour of the Ionian’s helmet couldn’t withstand the X.50 rounds. It split and little globules of red blood floated out from under the cover. The intercom crackled. It was Stone. “Our man taken down sir. Going in for a look.” That meant there had been another guard on the south-side and he was now disabled. The rear guards stayed back as the leading four of us reached the entrance to the dugout, on its east-side and Stone poked his X.50 inside. He immediately backed out, saying “Two grubs,” over the intercom. By now I could barely see the dugout entrance for yellow dust and we waited for the two miners to emerge from the cloud. They came out with their hands up and Stone made them turn through 360 degrees before making them sit up against a rock a few yards east of the entrance. While Stone, recognisable by the over-sized dagger he usually wore, stood with his X.50 pointing at the two prisoners, one of his team dipped into the entrance to check all equipment was switched off before placing a small charge. During daylight hours you could not normally see the faces of other men through the visors because the filters would give off glare from the sun but I could see the two faces of the Ionians. One looked full of hate but the other looked strangely sullen, scared even. I decided to question him and not the other. I tapped his wrist, where intercom units used to be, and drew 220 in the air with my finger, the standard Red Cross frequency. Of course he had to activate this inside the helmet verbally and might not choose to do so. I turned my frequency to 200 and waited patiently. After a minute or more the intercom crackled and I heard a sullen, “Yes.” “Greetings Ionian,” I said jovially. “It’s your lucky day. You are definitely going to live and you might retain all your limbs if you answer a few simple questions.” “Smith, Corporal, 00001,” he said. His name, rank and serial number included the obligatory 00001. All Ionians used the same serial number. In effect they had no serial numbers which they felt confused USAC. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the other Ionian glanced nervously at Smith, several times. Is he afraid this one will reveal something? “Well Mr. Smith, Corporal Smith if you prefer...” I was digging and waited for a response. “Smith will do.” “Mm. You don’t seem so attached to the Militia as your friend there. How long have you been mining?” “A few months,” came the terse reply. The other Ionian winced. “Uh-huh. Have you targeted a Type 4 before?” The other Ionian looked surprised. “I dunno. Maybe.” “Maybe? It’s the latest type. What sort of charge were you planning to use?” “What do you mean? I don’t have to answer these questions. Look, if you want to get it over and done with that’s fine by me.” “What charge?” I made it sound angry and pointed my X.50 at his upper right arm. “Hey! Wait. I dunno. Four pounds, maybe. We hadn’t decided.” “Oh. I don’t think so. Okay sonny. So I know you are not a miner so that raises a serious question. What are you doing here?” Interesting. Is he an observer? A news reporter? Not sure. “No. Listen. I am just a miner. Okay so I have only been doing it a week. This is my first time. Training courses are hard to come by these days.” He laughed. “An ironic sense of humour... I like it! Shows intelligence. Maybe too much intelligence for a grub.” My men were gathered around now, tuned to 220, listening in. I could hear their breathing and their smirks from time to time. I tapped the shoulder of the nearest to me. “Stay on the proper frequency, corporal.” “He’s undercover sir,” said one of the other corporals. I recognised the voice; Opinnskey. A bit of a joker by all accounts but clever. “Undercover Opinnskey? Why do you say that?” “Look at those arms sir. He hasn’t ever lifted an A.M. in his life. Daddy is probably a high-up, I reckon.” He squeezed Smith’s scrawny arms and the others laughed. The other Ionian looked scared now. “Maybe he is. Maybe he is. Maybe his Daddy is high up in the army.” I thought I saw just the slightest flicker of his eyelid through the visor. “Did you want to see some active service? Blow up an MCS to impress a girl? I bet that would get you a few nights in bed with that pretty girl.” He looked uncomfortable. “Okay Stone. Take care of the other one.” Stone turned the dial on his X.50 to minimum ballistic charge and pulled back on the trigger. He aimed the red bead at the Ionian’s right shin. He pulled back further on the trigger and a green shot of plasma pierced the Ionians shin, leaving a neat black hole for a second which quickly ejected red bubbles before the suit sealed itself. I could see the Ionian was screaming but we couldn’t hear him. Stone repeated the shot on the other shin and then on both forearms. We couldn’t take prisoners and the Ionians wouldn’t take prisoners. But we didn’t want to kill so we just disabled the soldiers. Most of them would never see active service again so we were doing them a favour really. Their medics would pick them up quite quickly once we had broadcast the standard Red Cross distress signal for them. Of course some of the other USAC Companies were less lenient. I could see Smith was grimacing in anticipation of the pain that would surely come. Perhaps he thought he could get a lighter punishment. “Well?” I asked. “Well, what?” he said. “What's the explanation for you being here?” “I've told you everything. Just get it over with.” I crouched down and looked into his eyes. I could see a different kind of fear there now. It wasn’t fear for his physical safety. “Take the other one away Stone.” I gestured for the rest of our men to go with him and I waited while the writhing Ionian was dragged around the corner of the bluff. I spoke to Smith. “Okay now we are alone. Anything you tell me will have been extracted under duress. You won’t have been responsible. I used a dose of SPA on you okay? Now all I want do know is; who's your father?” “Okay. I will tell you something, something big but you gotta give me something. Leave my arms okay. I heard some guys lose the use of their fingers. I need them, you know?” “Okay. I tell you what. I will just lightly graze one arm but I better hit the other one or people will be suspicious. Don’t worry. I know just where to hit it. I can reduce the pain too. Deal?” I looked at him. “Deal.” He already looked like he regretted it. “Shit. Okay. My father is Anatolian Smith.” “And who is he?” “You haven’t heard of him?” He seemed astonished. “He is the the General, effectively, of the Ionian Militia for the whole of the northern hemisphere of Io. Nothing happens up here without his say-so” I forced myself to breathe deeply. This was a supreme stroke of luck and I was having trouble breathing. Sounding calm, I asked, “So what is it you were gonna to tell me?” “You want to know something big. I will tell you. There is an offensive planned. We have twelve new SU 401s and they are going to hit your mines at Ruwa Patera. Soon. I think maybe next month.” “SU 401s?” “You didn’t know that did you?” “Twelve? When did you say? In March?” “As far as I know.” “How? What weapons? Will there be ground troops? What is the strategic objective in all this?” “I don’t know all that. I told you what I know.” “Okay. I am going to give you a little ‘general.’ I’ll put it in your feed now. Relax.” I took a small plastic container out of my Medi-pouch and took off the lid. I screwed the end to the connector of the emergency intake on his respiratory unit and pressed the button to release the general anaesthetic into his system. I waited for a minute. Then I stood up, aimed my X.50 at his shin and fired a shot through his tibia. A neat black hole was filled with little red bubbles which drifted out into the thin Ionian atmosphere. Then a silver liquid, the sealant, trickled into the hole before it finally sealed the suit, leaving just a few red and silver bubbles floating away. He moaned but he didn’t scream. “Are you right-handed?” I asked. After a moment he answered, “Yes,” through clenched teeth. I fired a shot through his left forearm and then, as I had said I would, I grazed his right arm with the final shot. There was a lot more blood so I called Stone to get one of his men over to put a tourniquet on him. I stood up. Well. This is a turn-up. At last a real piece of luck. A chance for real glory, this is. With this I get promoted another rank, maybe two, and then we will see. A cold thrill ran through my spine but for fear of it reaching my finger tips and making me dance around like a fool, I confined it to quarters. We detonated the charge, after dragging the two casualties a safe distance away, and started back for base. There was some commotion off to my right; it looked as if two of the officers were arguing on a private link, one of them stamping his foot and shaking his X.50 but I ignored them. I wondered what the landscape would look like with trees, or even some grass. Riccard was rumoured to be working on a strain of grass that could grow in these conditions. For a moment I fancied myself as the governor of Io, with plans to geo-form it in some way but I caught myself. My life’s path had been decided for me a long time ago and creativity wasn’t a big part of it. The rest of my waking hours that day were spent communicating with USAC Command, first through my superior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Roanald, and then with Central Intel. Of course at first they were all skeptical about the provenance of my information but they had to admit it was brilliant if thought up on the spur of the moment. They confirmed the identity and rank of Anatolian Smith. Finally, around 20.00 hours, a decision was taken. I was to lead a task force of three companies in a covert mission to prevent the taking of Ruwa Patera, close to Anderstown, capital of the USAC territories on Io; covert because it was hoped we could surgically remove much of the cream of the Ionian Militia in this one operation if they weren’t expecting us.