Authors: Jacob Gowans
Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction
Also By Jacob gowans
All characters, events, and text within this novel and series are owned by Jacob Gowans. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or recorded by any electronic or mechanical means without written permission of the author. For information regarding permission please contact the author at
To my Fellow Bookworms who took a chance and bought
, for their enthusiasm for a sequel, and their continued support.
After such unexpected success with
, I have many people to acknowledge for making that happen and for helping
reach its full potential.
My first thanks go to the members of Cougarboard, an online sports forum. With opened arms and minds, they read and encouraged others to read
, helping word about it to spread. They also helped me with names of characters both foreign and domestic.
My second thanks go to those who participated in a fan-workshop of
. Their feedback and ideas and criticisms helped shape
into a much better novel. These people are: Scott and Britta Peterson, Michael Sheldon, Anna Bean, Joel Mietus, John Wilson, Jana Jensen, Alyssa Penney, Dan Hill, and Kirk Anderson.
My third thanks go to family and friends who supported the projects and told others about
. Special thanks to Rawl and Carol Crosby, my in-laws, who let me litter their table for two months with manuscripts while I lived with them after finishing dental school and prepared for licensing exams.
More special thanks go to Britta Peterson, for her work on the cover, and to Shannon Wilkinson and Caity Jones for editing the final manuscripts.
December 19, 2085
OMMANDER BYRON SAT IN HIS OFFICE
surrounded by medals, pictures, and other personal effects. On his holo-tablet was a classified report from the New World Government Health Center Department of Psychology. He had already read the report twice, but wanted to peruse it once more before retiring. The day had been long, most of it spent at his desk on the sixth floor of Psion Beta headquarters. A long sigh escaped him, one of many that day. He stared at the wall facing his desk and watched a particularly large cloud slowly drift by, gently swirling as it did so.
He liked the cloud screensaver on his wall screen. It reminded him of flying, one of his favorite things. It also helped days like today become a bit more tolerable, when all he did was fill out paperwork and spend hours on conference calls and read reports on the upcoming launch of the first moon colony. He rubbed his eyes to make the bleariness go away.
Suddenly the clouds disappeared and his screen displayed a message from his son, Albert:
We need to talk. Can I come up?
Byron quickly answered his son in the affirmative and began separating his files into finished and unfinished stacks. He had just sorted the last of them when a soft buzz came at the door. Albert’s face appeared on the wall screen. Byron touched a button at his desk to unlock the door.
He studied his son’s face, trying to read his emotions. For the last few weeks his son had worn the same brooding, torn expression. Now it was different.
“Hey, buddy. How are you?”
“Fine,” Albert said as he took the seat opposite the commander. Byron never allowed Betas into his office, but entertained plenty of Alphas and members of Psion Command.
“Did you watch the Hurricanes last night?”
“No?” Byron drummed his fingers on the desktop. “Pushing for the division title now.”
“Really, are they?” There wasn’t a hint of interest in Albert’s tone.
“Yep, they won seven of their last eight matches. They even beat the Furies four to one last week. Did you catch that?” Byron knew the answer to his question, but wanted to hear the words from his son.
“No, I guess I missed it.”
“Ah, well, it was a great game.” Byron smiled sympathetically.
The old Albert rarely missed watching his favorite football club, the Helsinki Hurricanes. And given that the Hurricanes were vying for a spot in the World Tournament . . .
Commander Byron closed his eyes. How many hours had they spent together cheering the Hurricanes either at home or at the field? Hundreds—maybe thousands. He wanted to push the issue, but his son was clearly all business.
“So, what did you want to talk about?” he asked.
“I’ll show you.” Albert held up a memory cube. There was a flash in his eyes, a little bit like the old Albert. He had inherited that spark of life from his late mother, Emily, but his mission last month to Rio de Janeiro had all but extinguished it. Byron hoped its disappearance would not last.
The Alphas needed someone with his son’s enthusiasm.
“Is it alright if I load this up, Dad?”
After tinkering for just a couple of moments with Byron’s computer system, Albert directed Byron’s attention to the wall screen. “Okay, it’s starting.”
A program Byron had never seen before appeared on his screen.
“So the Alphas assigned to work with me on this are Ho Chin and Djedaa El-Sayid. I, uh, I assume you know them . . .”
Byron nodded and glanced to the wall on his right where a picture of every Psion Beta who had passed under his command hung in very neat rows, including Ho and Djedaa.
Albert noticed the glance and rolled his eyes at himself. “Right . . . Well, they’re helping me compile all the information from the mission and organize it into a format that can be analyzed chronologically. At the same time, they’re designing hyper-software that will start doing this automatically for all missions.”
“Sounds like a good idea.”
“Yeah, well, Ho Chin is really good at that stuff. And Djedaa, she’s just brilliant at problem solving. It’s taken us a while because we can only do it in our spare time.”
The screen changed into two line graphs, side by side, each with nine different colored lines. Each line had dots at varying intervals. Almost all the dots were blue, but two lines ended in black dots.
“So each colored line represents a different member of my team’s heart and breathing rates. This line is mine.” Albert spoke fast as he pointed at the gold line almost filled with blue dots. The excitement lacing his voice was unmistakable. “All of the blue dots represent voice communications received and sent. These black dots mean heart rate or breathing rate stopped. Basically . . . estimated moments of death.” Albert drew his finger along a purple line. “That line is Martin’s.” Then he moved to the light blue line. “That line is Sammy.”
“Okay,” Byron said.
Albert licked his lips and continued. His hands were shaking just slightly. “The only part of the graph we need to be interested in right now is toward the end. Where the three explosions occurred. The first bomb exploded here.”
He pointed to an area on the graph where all the heart rates except two picked up speed. He tapped the screen urgently, and Byron wondered if he wasn’t understanding something Al wanted him to see.
“That was when I ordered the cruiser to detonate the proximity mines the Thirteens had set up to block our entrance. A few minutes later, here, was the second explosion—that one was caused by a Thirteen. The third was here, and after we ran out of the building.”
Byron finally understood. “You mean—”
“Yes!” Albert said, his face beaming now. “Sammy’s vitals ended before we even blew into the building, before the first explosion! I saw him alive before the second explosion went off—the one that tore up that end of the hallway. From what Kobe could piece together from his broken memory, he was laying against the brick wall that fell down after the second explosion.”
“You mean, he—”
“Do you see it, Dad?” Albert tapped the walls screen repeatedly, sending ripples away from his fingertip. “There is no way Kobe could have survived the weight of the brick wall falling on him.”
Commander Byron didn’t answer his son, but listened intently.
“So Kobe must have had help. Sammy survived through the second explosion, at least long enough to save Kobe.”
“But you just said the weight alone could have killed him.” Byron rubbed his eyes again. “And if you did not see him when you were leaving, he had to be under that wall. Even if he was alive at the time, the third explosion . . .”
“I don’t know what happened in between the wall falling and the Thirteens running away. The hallway was full of smoke.”
“I remember Gregor reporting that the third bomb was a class C explosive, is that correct?” Byron asked.
Albert’s expression changed at this question. The spark left his eyes and he looked on his dad with wariness. “Yes,” he admitted.
“And the explosive was at the top of the pile, correct?”
“I know it’s not likely, but there’s a chance,” Albert said. The strain in his face aged him almost ten years. “It’s possible!”
“Al—” Byron started to say.
“Don’t patronize me, Dad. All I’m saying is it’s possible. He could have made it.”
“Well, then we should go back! Who cares about the danger? I owe it to him.” Albert stabbed repeatedly into his own chest with his finger as he said these last words. His face was flushed and his body trembled.
Byron spoke gently. “Please let me finish before you raise your voice. I agree with you. Okay? You are right. I will take all this to the Command. I will tell them that they must act if there is any chance he survived. Samuel was resourceful . . . and very smart.”
“So—” Albert started to say, but his father cut him off by speaking over him.
“However,” he waited until he had his son’s attention again, “you need to be patient. It takes time to organize a run into enemy territory. This is not going to be directed as a rescue mission. It will be to recover Samuel’s body. Wrobel and two others on Command both think the factory might be under surveillance in case we try to do just that. You understand that risk, right?”
Albert was about to protest again, but stopped himself. Byron appreciated his display of self-control.
“I am proud of you for doing this, Albert.” He fixed his gaze on his son. “But do you really believe Samuel is alive?”
The whites of his son’s eyes had taken on a pinkish hue. “I’m just trying to make things right.” A tremor shook Albert’s voice.
“I know.” Commander Byron’s voice had turned very soft. “Sit down for a second, okay? Otherwise I might start thinking you—”
“I’ve heard you say that a thousand times,” Albert said as he sat, but he wasn’t wearing his teasing smile.
Commander Byron looked at his son expectantly. “So?”
Albert just shrugged. “How are Kobe and Cala?”
“Cala is starting to look like her old self again,” Byron explained. “Should be back soon. She is one of the lucky few to survive an attack like that from Thirteens. Survivors are rare.”
“And Kobe?” Al pressed.
Byron picked up the holo-tablet with the psych report from NWGHS Medical Center. It detailed the latest information about the rehabilitation of Kobe Reynolds. He frowned as he scanned the words. “I am not allowed to read you most of it, but . . . ‘More evidence of psychological trauma continues to be found . . . Patient continues to blame himself for the death of Samuel Berhane . . . Undetermined if patient is a danger to himself, although at this stage he appears to be depressive, not suicidal. Date of release currently unknown.’”
Al stared at the pictures of the Betas on the wall. “It’s weird how Cala was the one who was hurt the worst—”
“And Kobe is the one who has the most trouble coping with it,” Byron finished. More than that, Kobe had flown off the handle not long after returning from hospital after the Rio mission. Byron first noticed signs of night terrors haunting Kobe’s sleep. Then his performance in instructions and simulations dropped to abysmal levels. He lost his temper at anyone who mentioned Samuel’s name, and assaulted Ludwig Petrov in the Arena. Almost two weeks ago, Byron made the decision to send him in for help. It hadn’t been easy. He and Kaden had to help the medics restrain Kobe just to get him out of the building.
The commander watched his son, realizing that he wasn’t looking at Kobe’s picture, but Martin Trector’s. “I spoke with Martin’s parents again a couple days ago. They are still struggling to come to terms with his death.”
Albert stared down at his feet. “Martin was hilarious. Not the best at anything in particular, but he was a loyal friend. I wanted him in Rio with me for that reason.” Albert flicked something out of the corner of his eye. “I miss him, Dad. His parents shouldn’t have been told that weapons malfunction baloney. They should know he died a hero.”
“We call it the Silent War for that reason,” Byron answered solemnly, but he knew his explanation wouldn’t help his son. “Even people like Martin’s parents cannot know about it.”
“And why not?” his son asked suddenly. “Because we’re afraid people will lose faith in the NWG?”
“It is not my decision, Albert. The Scourge was not that long ago. Billions of people died. Billions. How popular do you think a war would be? A war of any size?”