Blood Siren Chapter Excerpt
Today I've decided to give you all a taste of my new book, Blood Siren, available now on amazon.com and soon to be available for NOOK compatible devices from Barnes and Noble as well.
So, below is the first two thirds or so of Chapter One. If you want more but are still undecided, I suggest you download the free sample from Amazon, which takes you through all of Chapter One and part of Chapter Two. Of course, you could just buy the whole book. It is only $0.99 after all.
The link to buy the kindle version of the book is here and at the end of the excerpt.
BLOOD SIREN BOOK ONE is COPYRIGHT © 2012 by MICHAEL FORMICHELLI
Blood Siren is a work of fiction, any resemblance to any person, organization, or event is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or any part thereof.
Cover art by Jerry Minor 2012
Cephalon Temple Complex, Savorcha
Nero gritted his teeth and told himself that this was the last time. When he made it through this mission he would be done with a cold beer next to a bed waiting for him back at the base. A few hours more of putting up with this crap and he was finished with Savorcha for good.
The C-37 rumbled and bucked in the storm. The motion threw Nero’s CS-1A Heavy Combat Shell against the restraints binding him to the aerospace lander’s frame with tooth-rattling force. The armor was a bulky facsimile of a human form complete with arms, legs, and even thick-fingered hands. Though it lacked a neck, the helmet component could rotate up to ninety degrees in each direction and featured a suite of sensors and communications equipment. It transmitted a hyper-accurate view of its surroundings directly into the wearer’s brain via its cybernetic interface. Roughly four-meters tall, the armor protected its wearer with five centimeters of carbon-nanotube enhanced polymer-ceramic plates and enhanced his strength with powerful synthetic muscle fibers capable of tearing steel. It wasn’t perfect, however, in that high energy impacts still traveled through its protection to affect the wearer. Unfortunately for Nero, he was the one inside.
The layer of electro-gel between his body and the inside of the powered armor was designed to stiffen in response to impact and disperse kinetic energy around the wearer, but some still got through. The force, though harmless, was enough to knock the air from Nero’s lungs and he coughed into the breather membrane clinging to his nose and mouth. He gasped, trying to refill his lungs with the oxygen aerating the electro-gel, but the membrane could only filter so much through at a time. By the next buck of the transport ship Nero’s lungs were aching.
It was just another thing to hate about Savorcha. The planet orbited a brown-dwarf star that just barely radiated light in the infra-red spectrum. Most of the life that evolved here was either bio-luminescent, or relied on echolocation to navigate. Nero hadn’t seen daylight in nearly three years.
The world was heated by its massively active tectonic plates. Thousands of volcanoes spewed lava, ash, and fumes toxic to most sentient species in the Orion Spur on an hourly basis. Most of its surface was a barren crust of dried lava broken up by oases of sulfurous hot springs and a massive acidic sea. The air could melt off-world lungs in minutes, and the rain often destroyed exposed equipment. Even combat shells like Nero’s had to keep their aegis fields up while operating outside or they would begin to corrode within hours.
Although not part of the regular Star-Corps forces, Nero was assigned to assist them on missions that required his special abilities. He was an Abyssian Praetor, a cybernetic organism deployed to operate above and beyond the abilities of normal forces. Praetors didn’t usually stay on missions as long as Nero had on this one, and every day he expected a message from command telling him he could take his ship and leave. Three years he spent in this hell and now, at last, the conflict was drawing to a close.
The Orgnan Empire was in retreat, and the liberation of the Savorchan people promised by the Confederation of Sovereign Systems was finally on the visible horizon. This would be Nero’s last mission here before he was to be recalled to the capitol on Kosfanter. With getting out of here once and for all at stake, Nero was absolutely not going to let anything go wrong.
Nero shared the C-37’s cargo-hold with ten artificial troops. Each was strapped, like his shell, in a niche between the ribs of the vessel’s super-structure with bands of thick polymer. Unlike Nero, the troops did not wear shells but were outfitted with lightweight poly-ceramic armor. The overlapping plates and tough, reactive fibers linking them made the troops look like humanoid insects with meter-long gauss rifles sticking up over their backs. The angular design of the plates was intended to intimidate a number of biological enemies since insects were reviled by most known sentient species; at least that was the idea. Nero didn’t know or care if it worked. They were here to back him up, but he hardly thought the extraction of one scientist and his family from an abandoned alien facility warranted so much firepower.
No, he’d do this himself and have it done in record time.
By yourself? Really, Nero? What, do you think I’m just going to sit here and let you screw this up for us? Prospero said into his thoughts.
“I expect you to sit there and let me handle this,” Nero responded in quiet tones.
Oh, and who’s going to get you through the doctor’s security? Who’s going to contact the ship when you’re ready? I run your cybernetic implants, don’t forget.
Nero rolled his eyes. His Symbiotic Cerebral Computer, SCC as they were commonly called, could get annoying at times, but its usefulness could not be denied. Nero had no idea how to hack computer systems or even fly a ship. He’d been designed for black ops and it was left to Prospero to handle the high-brow stuff.
The pitch of the ship’s engines changed and Nero swayed in his niche.
“Could you go a little easier please?” Nero muttered.
Oh, forgive me, would you like to land the ship in the acid rain storm instead? I thought you wanted to arrive in one piece, Prospero responded.
Nero snorted. “Fine, just get us down so we can get out of here.”
Your wish is my command, your highness.
Nero suppressed the urge to punch a wall. Doing so in a CS-1A could compromise the hull.
The fat, bird-like body of the C-37 swooped down out of the black clouds rolling over a stretch of land called the Hizgrul Caldera. The flowing lava below cast a shifting, orange light on her belly as she came in low. Ahead, nestled on a ridge of igneous rock thrusting up from the molten plain, was a smooth drum shaped structure that clearly had not been formed by the volcano.
The C-37’s sensors showed it to be comprised of artificial silicon-polymers laced with tiny amounts of ferrous neutronium and several other compounds that had number designations instead of names. Within moments of checking the on-board database, the ship informed Nero that nothing in the Confederation could produce such a material. Nero expected that. The mission briefing he received before heading out mentioned that the doctor was holed up in some kind of pre-Confederate civilization’s abandoned laboratory.
The ship flew in and came up above the drum. The dark energy field kicked in, wrapping the vehicle in a soft, pink glow as she descended vertically downward and extended four claw like appendages from her belly. With a sigh she settled onto the flat top of the structure.
We’re here. Are you happy? Prospero said.
“Perfectly.” Nero hit the strap release resting over the suit’s chest and took a clumsy step forward out of the niche.
Shall I activate our escort?
“No, don’t bother. It’s just a man, a woman, and a child, right? How dangerous could this be?” Nero said.
Nero, the last report from base indicated that the Orgnan forces were advancing on this position.
“It also said they were hours out. I’m not concerned, this’ll be done long before that. Now, let’s pressurize this baby and get me outside.” Nero headed towards the rear of the craft.
Very well, Prospero said.
The aft third of the floor split open and the landing ramp descended toward the alien building below.
The walls inside the alien structure vibrated with such violence that a cloud of millennia-old dust rose like a specter from the floor.
I told you we should have taken the troops, Prospero said.
The first part of the mission went off without a hitch. Nero gained entry to the structure through the roof access, descended into the airlock the doctor set up and entered the maze of ancient halls within. As the shell was too bulky to walk around the narrow corridors, Nero went through the time consuming process of getting out of it, scraping the gel off, and exchanging it for his black uniform. So far, that was the most success he achieved.
Not only did the Orgnan arrive hours ahead of schedule, but the doctor proved much more difficult to extract than Nero expected. His position did not waver when the first Orgnan bombs rattled the building, nor had it changed when Nero made it clear that with his C-37 parked on the roof a lucky blast could strand them here permanently.
"I will not leave until my research is done." The doctor clenched his fists.
The man was insane, there was no other explanation. Nero was not going to let this lunatic ruin his chance to get off-planet. It was time to up the ante.
Another blast sounded outside. The force of it nearly knocked the air from Nero’s abused lungs.
“That’s it, Doctor Rega, we’re going.” Nero’s gaze made the lanky man in the white jumper flinch.
There was a moment of fear in his wide, brown eyes, and his hand rose to rub the rising bruise on his cheek where Nero had applied intensive persuasion earlier. The nostrils in his crooked nose flared, and his thin, pale lips twisted in disgust above the narrow terminus of his long face.
They stood in the make-shift lab the doctor had constructed. Three portable aluminum tables were pushed together in the center of the dusty room. Several pieces of equipment were hooked into a large superconducting battery beneath the table amalgam via thick, rubber-clad cables. A holographic projector hummed away translating the machines’ work into a visible media.
The doctor’s wife, a comely woman with shoulder length black hair and prominent cheekbones, sat in the corner opposite Nero with a little girl. The woman’s eyes were pleading with her husband, but the child seemed more interested in petting her large brown and tan cerberai than taking part in the drama unfolding around her. Cerberai were genetically engineered canines with twice the size and double the intelligence of the species they were derived from. This one looked back at Nero with obvious intelligence and concern in its big brown eyes.
The doctor’s attention flew from Nero to the holographic display lighting the small stone chamber with an eerie electric blue illumination. It showed a running translation from arcane symbols Nero didn’t recognize to the familiar Terran script beside them. He caught the words, “nanomachine plague” and “disrupting mental process” as they scrolled by nearly too fast to follow. For a moment he wondered what the hell this doctor was here researching, but then pushed the thought from his mind. Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with the mission he was on. His orders were to extract one Doctor Rega and his family from the alien facility, and that’s what was going to happen whether or not they liked it.
When Doctor Rega’s eyes met Nero’s again, the fear was gone.
I told you he wouldn’t leave voluntarily, Prospero said.
“You’re not helping things.” Nero intended his words for both of them. He brushed the right side of his coat aside and drew his PX-28 gauss pistol from its holster. It was time for a new tactic.
Holding it at his hip, Nero pointed the barrel at the floor. “I don’t care if you wind up a pile of bones in this place or an Orgnan slave, but I refuse to allow you to take your wife and kid down that path with you.”
The doctor chuckled and ran a dirt-covered hand through his unkempt black hair. “My wife understands how important this is, Abyssian.”
Nero sighed. “I’ve got a C-37 waiting on top of this decrepit old temple. You don’t have to die with him.”
The woman looked away, but the girl looked up. She was thinner than Nero expected from her description in the mission brief, a state accentuated by the long face and a large roman nose she shared with her father. Her black hair hung about her wiry body in long, clumped locks. It took Nero a moment to recognize that she had an environmental suit on underneath the stains and acid burns on its surface. She was a picture of neglect and Nero had a pretty good idea why after interacting with Doctor Rega, but the pity that had begun to swell up in Nero’s chest was arrested by her gaze. Her large eyes glowed bright green in the dark of the room, pulsing as though an unearthly fire burned just behind their lenses. He was so stunned by the sight that he missed what she said.
“I’ll go,” the girl repeated. Her voice was so steady and matter of fact that Nero began to wonder if there were such things as demons.
Now you’re just being ridiculous. Her name is Kiertah Rega. It’s right here in the brief. She’s the daughter of the two doctors in the room. I’ll admit, there’s nothing in the file to explain those eyes, but it won’t matter if the Orgnan attacking this structure manage to collapse it on top of us all, now will it?
Nero shook his head. Weird or not he had a job to do. “Alright, let’s go then.”
The girl rose languidly to her feet, unaffected by the tremors of bomb blasts outside. The cerberai rose with her and waited patiently while she grabbed the scruff of his neck and pulled herself into a seated position on his back. Her mother moved to put an arm on her shoulder, but a glare from her unearthly eyes froze the woman in place.
“Kiertah, don’t,” Doctor Rega said.
Another bomb hit close to the chamber they were in. The walls cracked, spraying dust into the air thick enough to dampen visibility in the room. Nero was nearly thrown off his feet and Kiertah’s mother was dislodged from her perch on the lab stool. Doctor Rega swayed but recovered quickly and moved towards the glowing holographic display.
“I’m not going to leave all of this progress for drooling beasts like the Orgnan to exploit. I will go only after I know my research will not be stolen,” Doctor Rega said.
Nero glanced down at Kiertah, who met his gaze evenly and nodded at him as though she knew what he was thinking. He felt a strange sensation in his head followed by a feeling of rightness about his idea.
“Fine, I’ll just have to hurry things up then,” Nero said.
“What do you mean? You can’t speed up-” The Doctor froze, staring at the object Nero produced from his belt.
It was ovoid, about the size of an apple with a shiny metal skin. A single black button decorated its surface. Nero held it up so that the doctor could see it clearly, and took a few steps backwards into the corridor outside the chamber.
“What are you going to do with that?” Doctor Rega said in a half-whisper.
Ah, Nero, I would not recommend this course of action. I don’t think you’re thinking this through clearly.
“Hurry things along.” Nero twisted the button, pressed it, and threw it down the dark stone hallway. It bounced several times in the darkness, then struck a stairwell at the far and could be heard touching each step.
The doctor’s wife gasped.
Did you even look at how long you set the fuse for?
“You idiot! This facility is geothermal, powered by the heat of a magma flow directly under it! If your anti-matter grenade cracks the neutronium containment cap, the volcano is going to erupt!” The Doctor’s face was turning purple. Veins bulged on his forehead.
“Well, then, we better go, right?” Nero smiled.
An explosion louder and more forceful than any Orgnan bomb turned the air in the corridor into a moving wall and slammed Nero off his feet. He twisted around, landing back-first against a curve in the hallway that lead towards an ascending stairwell. The air left his lungs, and stars filled his vision. Through them, he could see the opposite end of the corridor brightening rapidly with blue-white plasma.
White flame rimmed by rings of blue and orange filled Nero's world. There was a rushing sound, like that of a massive waterfall in his ears. He felt himself lifted and thrown, and then a shock wave passed through his entire body, forcing the air from his lungs and cracking his carbon-nanotube enhanced skeleton with a sound like a thunderclap.
For a moment the world was spinning shadows, but then the floor smacked Nero hard in the face and he was brought back to his senses with the smell of charred flesh in his nostrils.
You have first-degree plasma burns all over your body, Nero. I’ve switched off your pain nerves, but you’ve got a cerebral hemorrhage. I’m activating our autonomic medical nanomachines, but I cannot guarantee you will remain conscious long enough to get out of here.
Great, Nero thought. Cut off from his pain nerves he felt more annoyed than alarmed, though the latter swiftly outweighed the former when he discovered he could not move his right arm.
Stay still, Nero. Your right side has sustained more structural damage than your left. Let the nanomachines work, Prospero said.
Ahead of him the corridor was alight with orange flame. He could see a flood of lava crawling its way towards him and the open doorway leading into the chamber where the Rega family was.
The girl was the first to emerge riding her cerberai. The odd looking pair charged up to where Nero lay and the girl dismounted by throwing her leg over the beast’s back in a smooth, practiced motion. She knelt down beside Nero and put her small hand on his head while the cerberai sniffed around his smoldering body.
Her mother stumbled out next hauling the girl’s father by his shirt collar, coughing in the thickening haze of heat and toxic gasses. When she saw the flow of lava crawling towards them she screamed.
“Get up,” Kiertah said. Her voice revealed no fear.
Nero tried, despite Prospero’s warning. He managed to get his left knee under himself and started pushing off the ground with his working arm. He got just about to a kneeling position when a rumble shook the corridor and the floor bucked beneath him. A deafening crack overwhelmed Nero’s senses and the floor split open lengthwise down the narrow hallway. Trapped, superheated air spewed forth from the newly formed crevasse.
Nero and Kiertah were thrown to the side and the cerberai was thrown in the opposite direction by the blast. Nero struck the wall and had the air knocked from his lungs. He landed in a heap beside the girl.
A scream pierced the roar of the volcano beneath them. Nero turned his blurred vision towards its source and saw Doctor Rega’s wife clinging to her husband’s arms. Her hair and clothing were alight with flame and the two appeared to be wrestling with each other as her gargling screams came again and again. The doctor pulled his wife towards him, then shoved her with a violent thrust into the path of oncoming lava. She stumbled backwards, quiet for the moment, then the molten rock touched her heels and her body went limp and fell, doll like into the lava flow.
She let out an ear-rending shriek when fire flared about her body as bright as sunlight.
Doctor Rega surged forward down the corridor, and for a moment Nero thought he might be running to save his daughter, but then he was past them and heading towards the stairway.
Nero tried to move but his body was now totally unresponsive. A sharp tone filled his ears, swelling in volume to the point where he could not hear anything else. He saw the girl stir beside him before another pulse of hot gasses belched forth from the crevasse and his vision blurred out completely.