Titles: The IX – Exordium of Tears – Prelude to Sorrow
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: The Perseid Press
The IX --
Roman legionaries, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia.
A US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln.
A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.
From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.
How far would you be willing to go to stay alive?
Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.
Exordium of Tears --
Fight or die.
A brutal tenet by which the refugees from Earth – including the lost 9th Legion of Rome; the 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Rifles; and the Special Forces anti-terrorist team – were forced to endure while the Horde menace existed.
Now that threat is over, the survivors long to settle down and reclaim the lives stolen from them. However, such aspirations remain beyond their reach, for shadows loom on the horizon that not only threatens the future of Arden, but the universe too, revealing once again that…
Death is only the beginning of the adventure.
Prelude to Sorrow --
The task force dispatched from Arden to eradicate the Horde menace failed, and for those few left alive, the tenet by which they have survived for so long resounds as never before.
Fight or Die!
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?
A dull thud came from the back of the column, cutting Tiberius dead.
Every head turned in that direction.
What on earth was that? “Tiberius? Is there anything you haven’t told me?”
A plume of smoke ascended from the midst of the cavalcade.
“Oh, for Mercury’s sake,” Tiberius replied, “it’s probably the skidder. The Hollanders are quite skilled as mechanics but they didn’t have the right equipment to carry out a full re–”
Another, larger report throbbed about them.
Flavius stood in his stirrups. Was that an explosion?
The dual tones of a cavalry bugle and legion horn split the silence.
We’re under attack? “Tiberius, rally your men. Claudius, alert the advance riders. Lieutenant Smith, spread your troops among the civilians. I understand some of them are equipped with modern weapons? Ensure they —”
Flavius ducked reflexively as Wilson Smith fired at him.
Screams erupted all around, filling the air with sudden pain and terror.
Why is he firing at me? “What the blazes are you —?”
An overwhelming concussion lifted Flavius from his saddle and sent him spinning through the air. Disoriented, he landed hard, the air knocked from his lungs. Gasping for breath, he became aware of an overpowering ringing noise in his ears. A sickening, burning smell issued from nearby. Automatically rolling to one side, he scrambled for his sword and pushed himself to his knees.
Flavius bumped into something. He saw the charred flesh of a severed arm. Lying next to it, face down, was his optio. “Claudius,” he croaked. Scampering forward, he rolled his comrade over. “What hit us? Claudius? Can you . . . ?”
It was only when he looked closely that Flavius realized his second-in-command was dead. Although open, his eye sockets were two empty wells, exuding a revolting, greasy black vapor that dissipated quickly in the breeze.
No! It can’t be.
Blinking furiously, he looked up through a tangle of horses’ legs and billowing dirt. Nightmare apparitions flared through a kaleidoscope of neon blue, and strontium red and black. Skipping in and out of view, they menaced anything they could get their claws on.
Many didn’t get far.
Again and again, one troll or another would loom out of the press only to disappear in a conflagration of blinding light and heat as it was cut down by iron.
Wilson Smith sawed at the reins of his horse, maneuvering closer. He shouted something Flavius couldn’t hear. The young officer called again, pointing repeatedly at a spot behind Flavius. “Behi . . . you . . . com . . . out!”
He drew his rifle from its scabbard.
Flavius felt as if a lead weight had been dropped on his neck. Groaning, he managed to turn, and caught his breath in alarm. There, not ten feet away, a huge scarlet and blue monstrosity loomed above him. Clothed in a violet nimbus, and crowned by four dancing flames, the Horde Master spotted him, bared its fangs and talons, and closed on his position.
Steadying himself with one hand, Flavius kicked for all he was worth, trying to scuttle backward. As he did so, he reached for his blade. Sound returned, and a discordance of screaming and yodeling wails assailed his senses from all sides.
Several shots rang out. The Boss didn’t even blink. Protected as it was by an invisible barrier, the bullets ricocheted harmlessly away.
Exordium of Tears:
“Taken care of. We primed the Leviathans with more than a pound of pure lydium. When those babies go, it’ll trigger a chain reaction that will increase her density a hundredfold. Remember, she’s a neutron star: she’s already halfway to becoming what we need.” Calen was obviously flabbergasted, so Mohammed continued. “Why do you think I had Seraphim jump the torpedoes? They’re far too heavy to fly there themselves . . . speaking of which . . .” He addressed the AI: “About now might be good, it should coincide nicely with the demise of Latinus.”
“Very astute, Captain,” Seraphim replied. “The two events will occur remarkably close together.”
Like an unfolding flower, a second gateway bloomed to life beyond the sun’s corona. Seraphim added another filter so everyone could clearly see the string of Leviathans dip toward the dazzling penumbra.
“What happens now?” Shaní mumbled. “And how quickly?”
“To be honest, I have absolutely no idea,” Mohammed admitted. “This has never been tried before. From what Seraphim can calculate, once it starts, things will progress very quickly.”
It wasn’t until Mohammed felt a pain in his chest that he realized he was holding his breath.
He needn’t have worried. Irrespective of its audience, the soul of the little pulsar was irrevocably changed. The immeasurable force of gravity increased, overcoming the outward pressure exerted by her natural processes and compressing her toward a point of infinite density.
But Arabis fought back.
A blinding conflagration erupted, blanching the vault of the heavens and scalding the interior of the bridge in a wash of light so bright that onlookers cried out in pain and covered their faces.
Bloody hell! What would that have been like without protection in place?
Mohammed studied the scene closely: a nearby band of asteroids had begun to shudder. While smaller members of the group immediately broke orbit and commenced skittering busily toward the sun, larger fragments tarried, tumbling over and over before joining their smaller comrades on their final journey.
“Add another UV layer to the screens,” Mohammed called out. “And zoom us in closer.”
Seraphim did as instructed, and their vista transposed. Mohammed now felt sure he was looking into the eye of a god whose retina was comprised of hypersonic jets of plasma and supercharged ribbons of light.
A scene empyrean in scope and splendor.
Then the entire corona flexed, and neon tendrils lashed out into space. A futile gesture, for the magnitude of the developing maw beneath forced each streamer to curl back and fall to its doom.
The pupil rippled in an agitated sea of static and then contracted, as if the deity had stepped out into bright daylight. Actuality distorted and became viscous, forcing each passing second to labor for its next breath.
Transposing toward a darker shade of blue, the surface plane of Arabis flushed indigo, violet, and then red. It continued to contract and darken, then blushed through crimson, scarlet, garnet, and mahogany.
The orbiting debris field reached full flood. Blazing streamers saturated Arabis’s atmosphere, whirling inward from all compass points in a celestial merry-go-round of high energy release and photonic discharges.
Time froze. For an instant, everything locked in place relative to its own position, as if the galaxy were paying homage to the moment when everything would change forever.
When time resumed, Mohammed discovered reality had deformed, for only the leading edge of each asteroid had changed position. Elongated beyond reason, their surface parameters stretched off toward the darkening orb like strands of melted gray cheese.
Then the lights went out.
Prelude to Sorrow:
A swift tug on the reins brought Ossian’s mount to a halt. He froze in place, head cocked to one side, listening. Around him, other riders noted his reaction and followed suit.
Like a heavy blanket that shrouds the exterior doorway of a meeting hut on a cold winter’s night, the light of life left the forest as myriad critters fell still all at once. A chill clenched at Ossian’s spine, causing him to hunch in his saddle. Using his legs, Ossian urged his stallion forward a few paces, and as he moved, he unslung his bow and nocked an arrow.
A shuddering crash in the undergrowth, no more than one hundred yards to his right, caused him to snap around in alarm and his horse to shy to one side. Blending to the involuntary movement, Ossian spurred the beast behind the cover of a nearby oak tree.
Calming his nerves, he peeked around the trunk, only to be distracted by the odd behavior of the insects in his immediate line of sight. A spider juddered in an oversized web strung between the lowest branches, its fat hairy body contorting under the assault of a thousand imaginary blows; ants scurried hither and thither along the bark, antennae waggling and legs kicking in the face of unseen assailants; centipedes and woodlice writhed in agony, pitted on invisible spikes.
It’s almost as if they’re already under attack from an advancing dread . . .
A shriek hauled his attention back to the verdant wash that persisted in confounding his sight with fluttering leaves and dappled shadows.
“Something moves in the thicket ahead.” So tense was the atmosphere that Abibaal’s statement, though obvious, didn’t elicit the slightest barracking from those around him.
“And it’s coming this way,” Ossian hissed. He pulled on the bowstring, and though his chest tightened, tried to control his breathing. “Prepare yourselves, and remember. Shoot, peel away, retreat a short distance, and only then draw another arrow. Leapfrog each other. The boundary of these woods lies but a short distance north. Create space so that we can give our steeds their heads once we break free of the canopy.”
Much nearer now, the screams grew longer, then devolved into a series of high-pitched squeals, punctuated by the patter of tiny feet. Movement, slightly left of center, caused Ossian to sight along his arm and track the small dark shape hurtling toward them, a shape that resolved into a wild sow, her piglets hot on her heels.
Paying the humans no heed, mother and babies thundered past in a flurry of squeaks and grunts, and disappeared into the ferns on the opposite side of the trail.
In Balor’s name, they’re terrified. Ossian deflated. And I know why. Snatching at his next breath, he yelled, “Something’s still out there, and it doesn’t hanker for the taste of roasted game.”
Cabarrus barked orders. Sending some riders ahead, he directed others to spread out and take up flanking positions.
“Brother,” Ossian cut across his instructions, “we are fortunate to have been forewarned and should make haste to—”
The sound of trees being pulverized and crashing to the floor reverberated in the air.
“Move!” Cabarrus bellowed. “Make for the forest’s edge. We’ll regroup once we’re out in the open.”
Nobody needed telling twice. Like rocks from a catapult, men and horses leaped forward and bowled away. A fanfare of braying howls split the ether in a stark rejoinder to their sudden maneuver.
Exordium of Tears:
Barnes & Noble – The IX & Exordium
Prelude of Sorrow:
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/IX-Prelude-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B079J2DWZL
Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran 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 is the creator of the internationally acclaimed IX Series, along with Hell Bound & Hell Hounds, (Novels forming part of Janet Morris’ critically acclaimed Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also 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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