Book Seven in The Star Commandos Series
Genre: Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Tags: Science Fiction, Adventure, Commandos, Combat, Wildlife
Release: July 19, 2013
Editor: Christine I. Speakman
Line Editor: Greta Gunselman
Cover Designer: Charlotte Volnek
The Commandos find themselves facing an enemy more awesome than anything mere human foes could present. They are on the planet Tambora seeking information about a stolen shipment of Navy arms when they realize the volcano dominating the world’s island capital is no longer dormant. The challenges confronting them are enormous, perhaps insurmountable. They must first convince the local population, who hate and fear off-worlders far more than the natural force with which they have always lived, of that fact. Once they do, they must still struggle with the task of evacuating the very low-tech population before the inevitable and imminent irruption. Connor and Sogan remain until the very end, with the eruption in full progress, in an attempt to save three youths who concealed themselves rather than evacuate. Can they escape annihilation in the massive cataclysm?
“Varn, look out! Above you!”
Islaen! He whirled at the call and then froze as he stared upslope, his eyes involuntarily seeking what he knew had to be the cause of such overwhelming fear.
His heart beat fast. He was too near and the grade above was too steep for him to see the crest, but a ruddy glow was emanating from the hidden crater.
Even as he watched, it grew perceptibly brighter. “Varn! Varn, run! Now!”
He raced for his machine, gained it.
There was nothing he could do here, and somehow, by some impossible, vicious chance, or more probably by her own choice, Islaen Connor was still in the city below. He had to get to her before the Dragon struck again!
There was another sharp explosion, and seconds afterward, bombs began to rain down, red-hot rock and blobs of semi-congealed magma. The rover was hit and hit again. Sogan could hear the sizzle of scorching metal and prayed fervently that nothing would come too near his fuel tanks.
Pain! Desperately, his mind reached out, groped for his consort’s.
Nothing. The Noreenan was still alive. That much he did know, but she was no longer transmitting, whether by her own will or because she could no longer do so.
Grimly, he forced more and still more speed from the straining, wildly jerking rover. Nothing mattered now, nothing at all, except that Islaen was hurt, probably severely, some-where in that doomed city.
The former admiral forced himself to concentrate on the two brief calls he had received from her. They were the only clues he had as to where she might be.
Not quite. Reason could supply more. The Commando-Colonel had been at the planeting field, but logic would send her to the docks, to the place where the Daber was moored. There, she would have the choice of waiting for him or of coming up after him along the course he must follow. It was to that place that he must go to find her.
* * * *
Varn had reached the city when the glow increased to the intensity of the rising of a very small sun.
He glanced in the rear viewing mirror and saw a sight that turned the life cold within him.
A great cloud was rising over the lip of the crater. Black, it was, but shot with lightning and bearing within itself its own dull red fires, the fires of the Empire’s direst hell. It remained there, swelling, churning, boiling, until it towered fully thirteen thousand feet above the enraged volcano.
The man hit the controls, demanding the last shred of speed from his vehicle.
He knew it. By the great Spirit ruling Space, he knew what that dread thing was. Nuée ardente, preflight Terrans had named it, a pyroclastic flow, a mass of superheated gas so heavy with incandescent ash it could not remain airborne and so powered by the forces ejecting it and those within its own self that nothing could halt or turn it, a wall of destruction hot enough to melt solar steel, hot enough to incinerate everything within its path.
There was no thought to his driving, no consideration for the ground over which he moved, only the absolute need to reach the docks and the Daber ahead of the Dragon’s deadly breath. Praise the great Spirit ruling Space the previous avalanche had not touched and destroyed this part of Strombolis, blocking the way against him…
Sogan came within sight of the docks. He spotted Islaen at once. She was at the pier’s edge, braced against a pillar and stiff with terror but unmoving. Terror or something else. The whole left side of her face was scarlet with blood.
The Daber was beside her, in the water and free.
He braked the rover and sprang from it. Varn stumbled but with a desperate effort regained his balance. If he went down now, he was lost. They were both lost.
The Arcturian ran toward his consort, but she did not turn as he thought she would or respond at all to his coming.
Was this already a dead woman? Had she in her last act of volition set what she had known would soon be her corpse up as a signal for him? Her injury looked severe enough to have killed her…
There was no time to waste. A shallow breath told him the Noreenan still lived. He caught her and flung her into the boat even as he leaped aboard himself.
The oars were ready in their locks. He blessed the colonel for that. If he had been forced to delay to set them now, neither of them would live long enough for him to use them.
The nuée was almost on them.
Sogan put the full of his skill and strength into his rowing. Their only hope was to get to one side of it, out of its path. There could be no outrunning it.
He would never make it! The glowing avalanche was too huge, covered too impossibly vast an area, and it was moving far too quickly for mere human muscle to outdistance it. Already, the air was growing hot!
He pulled for it, knowing it represented their sole hope.
It was near, and he redoubled his efforts, grimly ignoring the debris once again falling all around, the ejecta of yet another explosion.
The dark mouth loomed before them. Another stroke, and they would be inside.
A violent blow drove Varn against the Daber’s rail. He retched with the burning agony in his right shoulder but somehow caught the oar again before it went overboard and with his left hand gave the pull that sent them into the waiting shadows.
About the Author:
Pauline (P. M.) Griffin has been writing since her early childhood. She enjoys telling a good tale, and since she always works with characters and situations deeply interesting to her, she finds the research as rewarding as the scribbling/keying.
Griffin’s Irish love of storytelling coupled with her passion for history, the natural world, and the above-mentioned research have resulted in seventeen novels and nine short stories, two Muse Medallion Award winners among them, all in the challenging realms of science fiction and fantasy.