Stellar Patrol Colonel Ciarnan Lacy and his allies, the President of the planet Aden and the head of her Naval forces, struggle to prevent a take-over by their grossly overpopulated near neighbor, the planet Sappho of Clodia. While trying to thwart this threat from the stars, they must also protect local civilians and livestock from ferocious predator packs and a gigantic hunter from the deep ocean and defeat an attack against their own lives by a deadly assassin. The Sapphonan peril escalates to the point that even more than the survival of Adenites as a distinct people is at hazard. The prospect of genocide has become a very real possibility. Lacy realizes that only by risking and probably sacrificing his own honor and perhaps his freedom can he hope to shield the people who have become his responsibility from the disaster looming over them.
|Release||May 20, 2016|
|Cover Designer||Charlotte Volnek|
|Tags||Invasion, Forced colonization, Genocide, Epidemic, Wildlife, Wildlife attacks, Saurians, Assassination attempt, Cats, Dogs, Character development & relationships|
The attackers seemed to be everywhere. Almost everywhere. A large area surrounding the pole to which a lone man clung about thirty feet from the ground was clear of living beasts. Only piles of dead remained within that space to testify to the effect of his weapon during the first moments of the assault.
Lacy shuddered. Even the dragon he had encountered years ago on Fairie had not filled him with the raw fear he felt at this moment.
The damn things were swarming around the embattled lead defenders. Two boars were down already…
“Flame them!” Shea snarled as she sent a bolt through the head of a hound leaping for the back of the biggest tusker, the king boar. “We’ll never be able to burn them all down in time.”
She was right, the Noreenan realized. The attackers recognized their danger and dispersed while the flier was near but quickly resumed their assault once it sped by, as it had to do. The perimeter was too large for them to cover if they remained in one spot…
He straightened suddenly. “Give me your blaster. Bring us in as close as you can to the defenders and drop altitude a couple of feet.”
The woman obeyed without question. Lacy set the weapon she handed him to broad beam and transferred it to his left hand. He was not ambidextrous, but he did not need to use it with a sharpshooter’s skill to accomplish what he intended to do.
He sent a long bolt blasting into the ground on a broad front rather than directly into the animals themselves. A number were felled all the same, and the rest sprang back. Within seconds, a fiery half-circle stood between the threatened herd and the bulk of the huge pack.
Maureen smiled coldly. The hounds were temporarily foiled. They could not cross the burning vegetation and searingly hot soil to resume their attack.
The tuskers were not free of danger. Ciarnan gave his attention to the assailants that remained within the barrier. Those were completely engrossed in their battle and appeared to be unaware of what was happening behind them. Most probably, that had never before been an issue when one of their packs joined combat with intended victims whether they met with success or were beaten off in the end.
There were a lot of them, maybe too many, the man thought grimly. The humans had not dared to fire the ground any nearer to the herd for fear of injuring the tuskers. There was still a hard fight ahead, but there was a chance. He now had a hope of lessening the odds against the defenders.
He concentrated on picking off the hounds pressing the tuskers most closely, literally blasting several off the backs of the embattled boars.
“It’s starting to cool!” the admiral warned sharply.
The Patrolman nodded and started to raise his left hand to reset the barrier.
Movement! Lacy snapped off a shot and dropped the hound hurtling, not at him, but at Shea. He felled a second coming in at almost the same moment from a slightly different angle. His mouth hardened into a grim line. Maureen had said the beasts were smart. She was correct. They were. The things were trying to take out the unarmed driver…
Another bolt seared through the air behind him. A yowl and a thud answered it.
The Noreenan instinctively glanced back in time to see an injured hound squirm to its feet. It had been a long shot, but the man on the pole had saved him a probably fatal tearing.
It required only moments to refire the boundary, but that was time enough for conditions to deteriorate again on the battle line. The boars were tired, their reactions slowing. As Lacy raised his right-hand blaster to resume his part in the fray, a hound sprang at the centermost tusker’s head. He tossed it off, but only blood-stained bone remained of the left side of his face.
The bloodied attacker scarcely struck the ground before leaping again at its victim. Ciarnan dropped it and sent bolt after bolt into the others who had hastened to swarm around the severely wounded animal.
He succeeded in easing the pressure on the king boar, but his concentration on that single duel had left the other assailants free to pursue their own battles.
There was no end of them even without reinforcements from beyond the barrier to augment their numbers. He and the boars could not kill enough of them to blunt the effectiveness of their attack.
Shea felt the same desperation. Her free hand touched the transceiver controls. “Kara, where in all the Federation’s hells are you?” If those soldiers did not come, and come soon, there would be no animals left to save. Maybe no flier crew, either. Their own position was anything but secure.
She gasped as the vehicle rocked violently. Two of the hounds had struck it in a powerful leap, coming up under it out of Ciarnan’s sight and range.
The craft rose abruptly to enable him to take them out but then descended once more. They had to remain on this level if they were to provide any effective aid to the tuskers.