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Book 12 in The Star Commandos series
by P.M. Griffin
Genre Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Tags Military space adventure, Character development & relationships, On-world combat, Treachery
Release April 25, 2014
Editor Christine I. Speakman
Line Editor Greta Gunselman
Cover Designer Charlotte Volnek
The Commandos find themselves embroiled in an ever-escalating mesh of intrigue and danger, mental, emotional, moral, and physical, upon their return to Horus.
In response to the rising peril of the Pirate Stars, the Federation and the Arcturian Empire, Sogan’s former ultrasystem, have resolved to form an alliance, and the Security Council has come to Horus to finalize it with the Empire’s representatives. The members of the unit, the Federation’s experts in the renegade system, prepare to present their information to both parties, but it is Sogan whom the Arcturians demand to see, much against his will and judgment. His reluctance is well founded. Admiral Zerat, the second-rank Arcturian officer, uses the meeting to launch his subtle attack, an attempt to push Sogan into committing suicide.
Other dangers threaten both the members of the unit and the others. A young man, consumed by hate for Arcturians generated by all he and his people had suffered during the long occupation of his homeworld, has secured the means to eliminate the Commandos and the admirals of both ultrasystems and watches for his opportunity to strike.
Emirites, with whom Sogan and Karmikel had previously clashed, make several attempts to shatter the new alliance culminating in a deadly street battle in which the Commandos, Arcturian soldiers, and Horusi civilians must unite in a desperate effort to defeat the attackers before even more people die.
“Attack!” she shouted. “Spread out and take cover!”
A broadside volley seared from the transport a bare instant after the Noreenan’s sudden warning, and fifteen strongly built men, erupted from its rear. They wore nondescript, dark-colored tunics and trousers, and their heads and faces were fully masked. All were armed with long-barreled assault blasters.
They had struck too late. The Commandos had served with what was arguably the best Resistance organization to develop during the War. The Arcturians had fought that Resistance. All of them were superb street fighters with light-speed reactions honed in the sudden, fierce strikes characteristic of that particularly violent form of on-world warfare. The intended victims were no longer in place to receive the blast.
The ports on the other side of the vehicle had opened up simultaneously to clear the street and opposite pedestrian walkway of human and machine traffic and had met with better success. The area was jammed with shoppers. Those within range were cut down like condemned prisoners facing a firing squad.
None of the disembarking assassins turned in that direction. They were given no opportunity to do so. The allied soldiers fired in their turn. Five of the attackers fell. The rest split up and burst into the four nearest establishments, their blasters discharging as they dashed through the doors.
Screams and cries followed. Blaster fire answered, at least from within the Fife and Drum.
“Varn, Jake, Bethe, pin the rest of those bastards inside that transport,” the colonel commanded as she dropped a couple of hooded figures with an accuracy that drove several more of their fellows farther back into their vehicle. “Loron, Throm, keep spraying those firing holes, the same as if you were trying to force through a laser’s port in space. The rest of you, clean out those shops. We’ll be in a crossfire in a few more seconds.” Their enemies’ assault weapons had greater range and power than hand blasters, but these men knew that, and they were not stupid.
The windows of the dress shop beside Sullivan’s place shattered, and broad-beam bolts sprayed out, sweeping the street in front and forcing the allies to pull back and huddle in the relatively secure space they had created for themselves at the transport’s rear.
Other blasters discharged from within, also big assault weapons, and the firing stopped abruptly.
“Loron, you have seen our laser controls,” Varn Tarl Sogan said. “Can you manage them?”
“Well enough to hit that flaming thing.”
“You and Bethe go for the flier.”
Sogan watched the two race away from the troop carrier, running in a low crouch. They had better move fast, he thought. As matters now stood, no weapon he had at his disposal including captured assault blasters could penetrate the enemy vehicle’s heavy shielding.
A bolt seared by a scant inch from Karmikel’s head. “Damn! We’re back in the flaming War!”
"Stay down, Prince!” Throm called out. “We shall cover.—“
The former admiral’s response was short and definite, and the yeoman chuckled. Time might not have reversed in fact, but some aspects of the bygone years had certainly traveled forward unaltered. War Prince Varn Tarl Sogan had never been given to seeking shelter while others did his fighting for him.
Shooting erupted from within the grocery. Seconds later, blasters discharged through the windows, not aimed at the allies but at the enemy’s firing holes.
Varn’s brows lifted slightly as one of the concealed marksmen sent a narrow bolt cleanly through three of the ports, one after the other, in as many seconds.
For the moment, Sogan and his comrades had little to do. The battle had frozen into a stalemate. The transport possessed only the one door for use by its human cargo, that in the rear, and the enemy had ceased trying to exit through that in the face of the Commandos’ withering fire. The Arcturian yeoman kept spraying the nearer ports, making it raw suicide for those inside to approach them. There were no visible targets farther up on this side of the street, and the Empire’s force rendered the ports on the other equally unusable.
They could not get at their attackers, but the military possessed weapons in plenty that could, and those would not be long in arriving. The transport’s driver would be equally aware of that fact, and he was not likely to wait around for it to happen.
The War Prince dashed forward to grab the weapon out of the hands of one of the slain attackers and then started to run up the length of the vehicle. The windshield was its most vulnerable point. The big blaster would be able to burn through that and take out the driver if he could get into position for a direct shot...
His race began well, but he had traveled only half the length of the enemy vehicle when two hooded men broke from the hardware store, shooting as they came. A veritable sheet of blaster fire from their comrades in the transport covered their retreat.
The War Prince flattened, unable to move forward or back as the ports nearer him activated as well despite his own fire and the efforts of his comrades to keep them untenable.
He winced as a bolt blistered just above his shoulders. Another near miss. Too near. Had it come a fraction-inch closer, he would be feeling more than residual heat.
His answering shot drove the defender back from that port, perhaps already en route to his kind’s particular hell, but others opened up, directing their fire at him. The attackers were getting desperate. They were ready now to risk more to defend themselves and to escape. He would have been out of the fight already had it not been for the incredible marksmanship of the sharpshooter covering him from the grocery.
He swore mentally. If he did not break free of this soon, it would be too late. The sons would be away…