Authors: Marshall S. Thomas
This book and parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law.
Ridan and its logo are copyrighted and trademarked by Ridan Publishing. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
A Ridan Publication
Copyright © 2010 by Marshall S. Thomas
Cover Art by Michael J. Sullivan
Starcharts by Hatton Slayden
Editing by Carol Woods
Layout Design by Michael J. Sullivan
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
First Printing: April 2010
Dedicated to the kids of my Yangmingshan Dreamtime,
Summer 1961 and Summer 1962.
We were young and immortal, strolling through Paradise.
We were just discovering ourselves and the world.
Anything at all was possible.
Your ghosts are still with me.
They never left, and they never will.
Good fortune to you all!
Praise for the Soldier of the Legion Series
"Exciting read… Heart pounding action. Mind blowing battles…Adrenalin pumping encounters with alien life… futuristic sci fi masterpiece… Marshall Thomas should soon be a major name in futuristic sci fi. I enthusiastically recommend this book."
— Laurel Johnson, Midwest Book Review
"…a deep, rich story that captures the heart of Sci-fi… a perfect story… captivating… moving. I highly recommend SOLDIER OF THE LEGION, one the best books I've read this year!"
— Nancy Mehl, MyShelf.com
Books in the Soldier of the Legion Series
Soldier of the Legion
The Black March
Slave of the Legion
Secret of the Legion
Cross of the Legion
Curse of the Legion
Table of Contents
PART I — CRIMSON SHIELD
Chapter 1: Blood Feast
Chapter 2: The Supreme Commander
Chapter 3: Eyes to See, and Ears to Hear
Chapter 4: The Santos Newhuman Socialrevolutionary Diversegalitarian Democooperative
Chapter 5: The Biogen Liberation Front
Chapter 6: The Temple of the Sun
Chapter 7: Movement, from the Edge
PART II — ANDRION DEEP
Chapter 8: Entering the Cathedral
Chapter 9: First Cut
Chapter 10: Deathpaint and Psybloc
Chapter 11: Missing in Action
Chapter 12: Blood for Blood
Chapter 13: Flags of our Ancestors
Chapter 14: The Holy Dead
Chapter 15: Advice from the Enemy
PART III — LOTUS
Chapter 16: The Sword of Light
Chapter 17: Mantis
Chapter 18: The Monkey
Chapter 19: Reckless Disregard
Chapter 20: Evil Deeds
Chapter 21: The Dark Cross
Chapter 22: The Empire of the Eye
Chapter 23: Facing our Ancestors
Crista Cluster, 1,400 light years from Sol
When the first Outworlder refugees approached the Outvac fleeing System oppression, the Crista Cluster beckoned them onwards with a view that appeared to form a starry cross in the vac. ConFree's ancestors settled those worlds as a free people and vowed in a Constitution written in blood to uphold liberty, justice and freedom, no matter what the cost, and to remain eternally vigilant against all forms of tyranny and slavery. The ConFree Legion was formed to accomplish those objectives.
"Liberty, Tac One, we're approaching the Community Center. Nothing to report." The young squad leader sounded a bit tense—not that I blamed him. We were combat-dispersed along a tree line, about to move out towards the little settlement. It was late afternoon on Fortuna and from our position the low, modern lines of the Community Center appeared untouched by any disaster. But something was certainly wrong—the all-ships emergency alarm was still bleating through space, crying for help from any passing ship. The settlement's starship, the
, should have been in orbit around the planet, but she was gone.
"Tac One, Liberty. Continue investigating. Watch yourself." The
was in orbit around Fortuna, all sensors on full alert. We sure hadn't planned to come here, but we were it—nobody else was in the vicinity. The
was a star transport, not equipped for combat. The Tac Force was a single squad of Legion troopers, normally assigned to defend the ship, not to investigate planetary emergencies, but a ConFree settlement was evidently in trouble and had to be helped.
"Thinker, Priestess, see anything yet?" Priestess sounded calm.
"That's a twelve, Priestess," I replied. The Community Center appeared to be constructed of a lovely white stone. It almost gleamed under the slowly darkening sky. Priestess and I were just passengers, on our way to Veltros in the Crista Cluster when the emergency call had diverted our ship. As we were both experienced Legion vets, the squad leader welcomed our help.
"All right, we secure the target—move out," the squad leader ordered. We hustled into the grassy field that bordered the forest. I had an E battlefield superiority rifle set on auto x. We were all clad in topcom helmets and A-vests—the squad hadn't even armored up. I considered that an error in judgment, but I wasn't in charge. I ran to a wall of the Center and went to one knee, covering the others. In moments all the doorways were covered.
"Body—I've got a body," one of the troopers reported. He was at the plaza in front of the wide main entrance, which gaped open.
"Stunstar, Five." The squad's Five fired into the entrance with his Manlink and a blinding, shattering blast shot debris out the door. The entry team rushed in. Priestess and I were on the outside, scanning the surroundings.
"More bodies. I've got…damn!" The entry team was securing the interior as Priestess and I approached the body on the plaza. It was a male, clad in shorts and ammo vest. His head had been blown off and he lay in a sticky pool of blood. He wore scruffy combat boots. His dark skin was peppered with bloody wounds. The head had evidently been hit by x.
"What do you think?" Priestess asked me. Her lovely child's face showed no trace of emotion. She was a Legion medic and had seen plenty of death.
"Need more help in here!" the young squad leader said throatily. "Auxiliaries, get in here!" That was us. Priestess and I entered the building, guns up.
More bodies—lots of bodies. I froze, warily, taking it all in. The Community Center entry hall was a huge, welcoming area, flooded now in weak afternoon sunlight. The marbled floor was awash with blood. The interior walls were pocked with ugly scars from x and laser. And the bodies were everywhere. Frozen, stiff, grotesque copies of humans. The bodies were like houses from which the inhabitants had fled, and they were all splattered with blood. It was like a giant, barbaric meat market.
"Recording?" someone asked.
"Yeah," someone else replied.
"Don't touch anything. Get it all."
"Right." A female Outworlder was sprawled near the wall, soaked in blood. She had been stripped savagely, shreds of clothing still clinging to the body. It looked as if she had been raped by a gang of madmen. Her throat was slashed wide open, with such force that she had been nearly decapitated. A male lay nearby, his head chopped in two, grey brains splattered around him. They must have used an ax, to do that. His entire body was ripped with deep scars—one arm was almost chopped off. He looked like an Outworlder too. These were the settlers—ConFree nationals. Who had done this?
A great bloody tangled pile of body parts lay off to one side of the hall, males and females and children—children! They had been blasted to mush with x. What a horrific vision—they were just massacred! Limbs, heads, torsos, were scattered in abandon. The floor was slick with bloody drag marks as if the bodies had been pulled from place to place. Opposite the giant pile of body parts, a group of young girls had met their fate. Now they were just bloody corpses, but I could tell they had once been lovely little angels. They had clearly been brutally raped and then frantically murdered, probably as their horrified parents watched from across the hall. Again, clothing had been savagely ripped off, throats were wildly slashed, heads were dangling from necks by a few bloody strands of flesh, and some heads had been completely smashed in, skulls crushed violently. What kind of mindless rage, what kind of insanity, was responsible for this obscene outrage against humanity?
"Camera," I said. "Over here." I pointed to a pool of blood, and the fellow who was doing the forensic recording came over. Outlined in the sticky, congealed blood was what looked like a huge footprint or paw print of something that was clearly not human.
"What in Deadman's name…"
"It's not a dog," Priestess said, contemplating the print.
"It's more like an ape," I said.
"But it's not an ape either," the squad leader said. "What kind of creature…"
"Sir," one of the troopies said. "It looks like some of these people were…eaten. We've got teeth marks here."
"Deto!" the squad leader cursed. "Liberty, we've got bodies, and we are investigating. Please ensure you record our transmissions. We're not sure what we have, but it ain't pretty."
"Tac, Liberty. Tenners. We continue scanning, no life in your vicinity."
"Tenners." Priestess and I joined the trooper who had discovered the teeth marks. Bloody bones and flesh and viscera were strewn around several bodies that looked as if a pack of wild beasts had feasted on them, ripping off body parts and chewing on the limbs. There wasn't much doubt about it. We found more of those awful paw prints. They were almost like a footprint, but shoeless, and the toes were long and separated—more like a hand.
"One, Six, I've got…oh, this is horrible. Outside."
I located Six on the tacmap and headed out a far door. I never made it. Another trooper was standing by the door looking into an alcove. Three Outworlder children hung there from nooses wrapped around an overhead beam. Elementary kids, still wearing their school uniforms. Two boys, one girl. That image is burnt into my memory circuits for all time. Priestess was frozen beside me. My vision was going red—a burning rage. I could taste it in my mouth.
"Cut them down," I ordered the trooper.
Outside we followed the blood trails to another tangled pile of bodies. Here the intruders had set up a barbecue. A blood feast, I thought. The remains of that obscene feast were everywhere, scattered all over the field. There were plenty of human prints—combat boots—but also lots of those beast prints as well. Many of the bodies had been cooked, but others had been torn apart and consumed raw. One of our troopies was vomiting, off to the side.
"One," I said to the squad leader, "we've had reports that the U'tal have produced man-ape transgens. The cannibalism appears to confirm it, but I'm sure we'll find plenty of evidence before we're through here. This is likely an U'tal raiding party from Asumara. I believe that body in the plaza was an U'tal mercenary. Could I see that settlement map?"
The squad leader opened up the silky color printmap of the settlement of Port Promise. It showed widely scattered pockets of settlers, in the forests, in the mountains, along the rivers. It was a friendly world, and newcomers built their homes wherever they wanted.
"We've got to visit every one of these sites," I declared, "right now." I was pretty sure what we'd find—but we had to confirm it.
"Thinker," Priestess was on private to me. "Why do you think they hit a ConFree settlement?"
"Because they're insane," I responded.
"What do you think ConFree will do?"
"ConFree will talk about it. The U'tal had better worry about what the Legion will do."
"What do you think the Legion will do?"
"I think we'll strike at Asumara, incinerate it, and then send in ground troops to ensure there are no survivors. We'll kill men, women, children, dogs, apes—everything that moves. When we've eradicated all life, we'll leave."
"The Legion won't do that. Will it?"
"I don't know. But I hope so. That's what I'd do. Let's get moving. We've got to visit every homesite on this planet."