Title: Prelude to Sorrow
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Fight or Die.
The task force dispatched to eradicate the Horde menace on far Exordium failed, and for those few left alive, the tenet by which they have survived for so long resounds as never before.
Now marooned, out of time and out of place, the survivors lick their wounds and struggle to recover while the Horde gather their strength for a final strike that will change the course of history forever. The fate of the galaxy – and more – hangs in the balance.
But fate, it seems, isn’t done with the Ninth, and our heroes find themselves forced to mount a last-ditch attempt to end the threat once and for all.
Will the darkness be vanquished, or will our heroes’ efforts finally signal the beginning of the end of their adventure?
Find out in – Prelude to Sorrow – the stunning conclusion to the IX saga.
T – Minus 3 Minutes
His mood darkened. “Sitrep?”
“As you can see, our Celtic friends tried to muster an army to oppose the threat. It looks like they didn’t do so good.”
Sam knew only too well the consequences of naivety and bravery. Poor fools. They achieved nothing but to offer themselves up as a tasty banquet. “What’s the casualty rate?”
“Scans indicate that ninety-nine percent of the first wave has been eradicated. Those who survived the charge are being devoured as we speak.”
“And the rest of the army?”
“They’re falling back to the ridgeline on the other side of the tributary.”
Sam glanced toward the remaining members of Alpha team; Bob Neville, Joe Stark and Eddie Roberts. Each had gathered around a ten foot wide ring-shaped section of the deck to carry out their final checks and prepare for a gravity actuated rappel insertion.
“ETA, two minutes,” Beth announced, “requesting vector instructions?”
Raising his voice, Sam called out, “Pat, Andy, are you listening?”
Aboard the Ballarat, Pat Keeley replied. “We’re both here, go ahead.”
“Good. The Abeille will circle round to approach from the west. As Beth swoops in low and grabs the Horde’s attention, Alpha team will be dropped on the far side of the outcrop. Pat? Once the blast zone has cleared, you come in from the north and cover the open ground between the two groups. If any of those soul-sucking tosspots recover their wits and try to outflank the locals, take them out with your Menta accelerators. Stay cloaked, provide cover from the air, and await further instructions.
“Andy? When Pat adopts a hover, infiltrate and make your way toward the Eurus. Your objective is to capture the ship intact if you can. If everything’s a go and you manage to take control, lift off and we’ll rendezvous at grid point omega. If you run into problems or you encounter too much resistance, disable the engines and proceed on foot to extraction point whiskey. We’ll come back in force to carry out the recovery later. Understood?”
“Excellent. Then I—”
“Sam?” Beth cut across the briefing. “The Horde has just this moment begun to charge at the remaining survivors.”
“Time to contact?”
“Okay, people, this is it.” Sam considered the overlay for a moment. He tapped a point two hundred and fifty yards east of the boulder-strewn prominence, and an orange dot remained illuminated. “Beth, put an Octopod on that spot, stinger variant, low yield.”
“Low yield?” Beth sounded disappointed.
“Yeah, I know it won’t take out as many ogres as we’d like, but we have to forego a Hail Mary strike in deference to the safety of civilians . . . even if they are armed to the teeth and ready to die. We’ll have to be flexible and adjust to what we see on the other side.”
“But Marcus said to keep overt contact to a minimum?”
“Tell that to the Horde,” Sam countered. “Anyway, these people aren’t stupid. I think a quantum singularity exploding in their faces might indicate there’s something unusual going on, don’t you?”
“I suppose you’re . . . whoops! Hang on to your hats everyone. ETA, thirty seconds. Opening outer hatch, starting descent . . . .”
Sam rushed to take his position. As the floor oculus slid to one side, he tried to look down and discern where they were. A pointless endeavor. The Abeille was plummeting at hypersonic speed, and all Sam could make out was a streaming blur, tinged lilac by the glow of the gravo-magnetic sheath.
Cutting out all other distractions, Sam spent the final moments giving himself and his latest weapon—a Remington 875 TM pump action shotgun with modified rounds—a final onceover. Designed to carry ten auto-load cartridges, and machined from a single block of solid steel, the Remington provided a smooth, rock-solid firing platform under all combat conditions, and was the perfect foundation for the magenta-slug; a specialized, steel-plated, high velocity sulfide-filled shot, developed by Calen. Able to deliver an incredibly dense spread pattern, the newly refined ammunition had been assessed as capable of shredding a Grand Master’s codex at distances of up to one hundred and fifty yards.
“Now on final approach,” Beth announced, her calm tones belying the fact they were heading straight into the most dangerous location on the planet. “Assault team, make ready for deployment.”
“Thanks, Beth, count us down will you?”
Sam addressed his team. “Okay, guys, switch to internals. Activate camouflage and set HUDs to standard rotational frequencies with anti-glare filters dialed to maximum. Check safeties . . . weapons hot. Good hunting, people.”
“Good hunting,” everyone replied in unison.
“Stand by, stand by,” Beth piped back in almost immediately, “decelerating in five, four, three, two, one . . .” The smear on Sam’s vision resolved into a picture postcard scene from only fifty feet up. Interspersed with foliage and flowers, the field looked more conducive to family picnics than a fate-deciding conflict. “Go, go, go.”
Sam nodded, folded his arms across his chest, and stepped forward at the same time as everyone else. His stomach leaped into his throat as they plunged toward the ground. Just before impact, however, a tingle rippled through his body and he abruptly decelerated until all trace of movement faded.
Alighting at the foot of a prominent boulder, Sam directed his team toward their respective fire positions and started to climb. Midway up, a sonic boom split the sky. The stone thrummed as if struck by a gigantic hammer. Clearly visible on his advanced optics, a pressure wave blasted past, flattening grass, bending trees, and throwing people to the floor. The sun dimmed, its glory surpassed at first by the magnitude of a blinding explosion, and second, by the sheer volume of ruined detritus sucked into the air.
Jeeesus, that was close. Perhaps I was cutting things a bit fine.
Share a holiday family tradition:
Now the kids are all grown-up, I like to make Christmas as magical as I can for my wife. So, taking a leaf out of my own parents’ book, I set things up – good to go – as from December 1st. But I’ve added my own twist. A few years back, I brought a highly decorative, hessian advent calendar. One of those adorned with refillable pockets and covered in festive decorations, and a candy cane pointer to remind you what day it is.
But I don’t just put a little chocolate coin in each pocket. Oh no. That would be boring. Instead, I leave a cryptic clue. The clue is divided into two parts. The first line hints at what the gift is; the second as to where I’ve hidden it.
Here’s an example. Annette loves gaudy wellington boots; the more psychedelic they are the better. So last year, the clue to help her find this particular advent day gift was:
“You can’t give this duke ‘the boot.’
Where you’d go if Old Mother Hubbard loved cats.”
Now, I know that won’t make sense to most of you. But the clue is geared to my wife – who I know very well. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know her likes, dislikes, stuff she’s well-versed about, etc, etc...
So, the first line hinted at a famous British duke celebrated for boots: The Duke of Wellington.
The second line refers to a very well known nursery rhyme we were both brought up on. Old Mother Hubbard, who – as the tale goes – went to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone. In our house, cats rule the roost, and we have a special cupboard where we store all their biscuits and tins of food for the month ahead. Ta-dah! Get it? I’d hidden her gift inside that cupboard.
I love this tradition as I get to ‘play’ all year long.
Annette isn’t very subtle, sometimes, when she sees something she likes. The repeated hints are about as restrained as a hammer to the head. So I play the ‘average’ husband and pretend NOT to pay attention. (Great fun J )That way, I get to collect a smorgasbord of little gifts throughout the year – which I then have to think of ingenious places to hide, all 24 of them – until Christmas dawns. Of course, I also have to plan ahead as to how I’m going to complete each clue. That takes a lot of forethought in itself . . . But my goodness, it’s worth it.
You really should give this tradition a go. It shows the one you love that you care.
Why is your featured book perfect to get readers in the holiday mood:
Because it exemplifies what has become another tradition: The Christmas ghost story.
The origins of the spooky tales now associated with this time of year have little to do with commercialism. They’re about deeper, older and much more fundamental things; about the bleakness of winter, death, rebirth and the connection between the storyteller and his or her audience. (Think “A Christmas Carol” and especially “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and you’ll be on the right track).
Prelude to Sorrow relates to those primary concepts. It deals with the harshness of reality and how life will kick you in the teeth when you’re down. But it’s also about sacrifice and the hope of a better future, despite the odds. The beginning has an end; the end a beginning, and you are involved, whether you realize it or not. Life goes on. Will YOU play your part?
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Runs December 1 – 31.
Drawing will be held on January 3, 2020.
Andrew P. Weston is an internationally bestselling author from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats. An astronomy and criminal law graduate, he has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Science Fiction Association, British Fantasy Society and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
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