The chronicles of heaven.., p.1
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       The Chronicles of Heaven's War: Hell Above the Skies, p.1

           Ava D. Dohn
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The Chronicles of Heaven's War: Hell Above the Skies
“The Chronicles of Heaven’s War:

  Hell Above the Skies”

  Ava D. Dohn

  Copyright 2017

  Discover other books in this series by Ava D. Dohn:

  “The Chronicles of Heaven’s War: Sisters of the Bloodwind”

  “The Chronicles of Heaven’s War: Burning Phoenix”

  “The Chronicles of Heaven’s War: Blood Moon Rising”

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  * * *

  TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  SECTION 16 WELCOME TO HELL

  SECTION 17 INTO THE FRYING PAN

  SECTION 18 PASSING THE TORCH

  SECTION 19 GLORY RIDE

  SECTION 20 DREAMS AND DESPAIR

  EPILOGUE

  * * *

  SECTION 16

  WELCOME TO HELL

  It all happened so fast. Everything was still a blur, Alba only now making sense of it. One moment she was standing near the opening exit door as the captain issued final commands to her two lieutenants when shouts from behind caught Alba’s attention. Looking over her shoulder, she stared into panic-stricken eyes, seeing several fingers pointing toward the nose of their troop-lighter.

  Someone screamed, “The tug’s gone up…!!”

  A blinding flash followed by a deafening, thunderous firestorm ripped past Alba, lifting her off her feet, flinging the woman into the searing smoke and flames. The tug pulling three lighters had been ripped asunder, sending its molten fuel cells into the middle glider, Alba’s. Instantly, the cramped troop-lighter was engulfed in a plasmatic inferno, tumbling from the sky. Hapless victims screeched in agony, consumed in the fire’s fury.

  On first impact, Alba was slammed against a bulkhead, pinned there by a crush of bodies hurling against her. As acrid smoke choked life from the woman, she wailed in panic, “I’m dying!” and passed out. How Alba got out of the twisted wreckage, she was not sure, remembering only fire scorching her lungs as flames licked the side of her face. Her helmet’s blast visor eventually closed, providing some protection. Then the lighter crashed.

  Alba came to, sprawled in the dirt, the smell of cordite stinging her nose, but the air was cool. She sucked in one intoxicating breath after another. This was like no abstract vision experienced in the Web of the Minds. She wasn’t dead! Suddenly remembering what happened, Alba staggered to her feet in search of other survivors.

  Her eyes followed a trail of destruction from the ship’s point of impact and its skidding to where it rested in an unrecognizable, twisted heap. Wreckage lay strewn for three furlongs across the broken field. Machinery, weapons, and bodies lie scattered along the path where the lighter had tumbled and skidded, spewing its cargo helter-skelter. Alba concluded she was thrown from its ruptured hull shortly after crashing.

  Smoke billowed from a distant fire off to the east. ‘It must be the tug.’ The two other lighters in its tow were lazily drifting off toward the south, behind the remainder of the landing force while rescue ships attempted to attach tether lines to the crippled crafts. She watched until they disappeared beyond the nearby forest. Alba fought back tears of helplessness, attempting to ignore a strangling constriction in her chest and throat, as despair of the moment enveloped her.

  Cries for help shook Alba back to her senses. Focusing on her surroundings, the lieutenant reeled from what she beheld. This was no field where a lone ship had crashed. For as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but broken wreckage of ships and transports. Fires burned out of control, the black, choking smoke turning dawn into night. People lay trapped inside broken machines, begging for help as flames slowly ate them up, while others mutely awaited their fate from the roaring infernos.

  The ground appeared to heave as though alive, the wounded blurring into one convulsing mass as they writhed upon the bloodied plain. Then there were the hundreds - or was it thousands - who lay silent, caring not for love or death. A charnel house of such proportion that words cannot describe unveiled itself before the woman. Bodies already ripped and torn beyond recognition were pitched into the air by continual missile and artillery barrages.

  Alba watched in horror as two medics attempting to drag an injured soldier away from a burning wreck disappeared in red mist when a missile exploded near them. Yet, in the following moments, she witnessed dozens of similar events. It seemed to her that the entire world was turning red from all the clouds of bloody vapor.

  A fellow soldier from the lighter limped toward her. Alba hobbled forward, only to trip over a disemboweled body, falling face down into its entrails. As she wretched uncontrollably, an approaching projectile ripped through the air, exploding only feet away, its concussion tearing away her helmet, rupturing her right eardrum and bursting tiny capillaries in her nose and eyes. She doubled up, clutching her head in agony. The fall had saved her, but the approaching soldier lie several yards away, little more than a pile of bloody pulp.

  While she lay there groaning, two soldiers neared. One shouted to the other, “Over there! Over there!” In moments, she was being assisted to her feet.

  “Are you alright, Lieutenant? Can you walk?” Alba recognized the voice to be that of a corporal from her lighter. Wincing, she painfully nodded her head.

  “What do you want us to do?! Where should we go?!” The second person, a private, excitedly asked, her voice choking from rising panic.

  Alba closed her eyes in thought, trying to recall instructions from her cadet training. ‘What to do… What to do…’ It seemed an eternity before her brain started working for her. Finally, opening her eyes, she asked, “Are there others still alive?”

  The corporal answered, “Yes! They’re wanderin’…” Another projectile crackled overhead. The three dropped to the ground, hugging it close. After seeing it explode some distance away, the corporal continued, “They’re wandering around, doing what they can, waiting for orders.”

  Alba crawled up onto her knees and, looking toward the forest, picked out a huge oak that had been splintered by a missile. Pointing toward the tree, she shouted above the continual din, “Go tell the others to make for that busted tree! Have them assist the walking wounded. Leave the rest. The medics will have to help them. We will go that way…” pointing northeast, away from the crash sight, “You go the other.” She motioned toward the burning lighter.

  The corporal nodded and began to rise. Alba clutched his arm. “Don’t linger! You tell the others what to do and then get out of here! Understand?!”

  “Yes, Lieutenant!” the corporal shouted back. He jumped up and, half crouching, ran toward the lighter.

  As Alba and the private struggled to their feet, the lieutenant shouted, “Now stick close, you hear? Hang onto my belt if you have to. Got it?”

  The near panicked private nodded her head.

  “Good!” Alba shouted, making herself heard above the roar of an armored landing craft passing by overhead. She looked up wistfully. There just were not enough of such machines to satisfy the needs of the invaders. In the desperate days after war was declared and the invasion fleet assembled, every usable ship and barge had been commandeered for use in the landings. The lighters her regiment had assigned them were bulk cargo carriers, often used to carry horses and livestock. Their life support systems made them readily adaptable to transport troops.

  Unarmed, un-powered - save for gravitation machines giving them gliding capabilities - the lighters were helpless in an attack. Command had calculated that with enough fighter support, and waiting until the third attack wave, of which Alba’s 9t
h Volunteer Regiment was part, it would be safe enough to attempt their use. Things did not go right...right at all.

  First, the enemy was dug in, and in far greater numbers than anticipated. Second, fighter support was drawn off to intercept a large number of enemy bogies coming out of Memphis, the capital city of MueoPoros, Legion’s stronghold. The remaining fighter support missed the rendezvous point, getting confused by huge thunderstorms and smoky skies. The third attack wave was forced to go in unescorted.

  Drifting into and through the atmosphere of MueoPoros had been uneventful, almost pleasant. Most of the PrasiaOdous Mountain Range, named for its orderly, tooth-like mountain peaks that stretched north to south for two hundred leagues, was covered in a dense cloudbank. A rapid-moving cold front had piled into the high peaks, trapping a moisture-laden low-pressure system, creating dozens of massive thunderstorms that unleashed sudden flooding downpours.

  High Command had scores of landings planned along the invasion route. Only during their final briefing did Alba and her fellow junior officers discover their destination. It was along the eastern spur of PurooGlossa, the red granite mountains near the northern end of the mountain chain. Her regiment, consisting of six companies totaling just over three thousand infantry, with a scattering of mortar and engineer specialists, was assigned to the third wave invasion force, which included two more regiments, also from the 2nd Brigade, Winehardt’s Division. The brigade’s three other regiments, including two heavy armor and artillery, were to quickly follow in the fourth attack wave.

  The descent to cloud level had been awe-inspiring. Through a little porthole, Alba watched, the sky filled with thousands of tiny dots spread from horizon to horizon. Her heart sang with triumphant joy, ‘How can our enemy stand against a force such as we have gathered here?’ As her taskforce drew closer, Alba became painfully aware that all of the dots were not theirs. Trails of black smoke and occasional red or white puffs revealed that the dragon was not caught sleeping. At times, she could recognize the distinct tailfins of Legion’s Depoues 49’s, his front line air-wing Marine fighters. Alba knew their own air-wing wasn’t up yet, and the Navy’s antiquated DTB’s and TKR-14’s would be hard-pressed to compete against those 49’s in heavy, planetary atmosphere.

  The lieutenant had watched over a dozen blazing transports tumble into the bright, billowy clouds below. While her heart ached with the knowledge that hundreds of her fellow soldiers were going to their probable deaths, she was relieved that no enemy fighters had attacked her convoy. Her flotilla of thirty some odd ships, made up of tugs, lighters, and small armored personnel carriers had drifted peacefully into the darkening cloud cover, unaware of the seething monster waiting in the angry smoke and ash beneath those clouds.

  Now, as Alba ran north along the crash sight, the wrath of the enemy’s killing machines was all too evident. She concentrated on her task at hand, trying hard to avoid focusing on the surrounding carnage, which was nearly impossible to do. There had already been countless dead and wounded scattered in the field before their lighter crashed. It had plowed a wide furrow through masses of bodies, killing, maiming and smashing. As the lieutenant stumbled along its jagged trail, the scope of destruction was overwhelming. It was nearly impossible to walk without hearing the squish of flesh being crushed under her boots.

  Repeating phrases from the ‘Officer’s Code of Conduct Manual’ helped her stay focused. It also eased a churning stomach that was threatening another purge. “Let’s see… An officer’s duty is to see to the safety and well-being of those in the officer’s charge. An officer is to put her charges first, caring for their needs above her own. An officer is responsible for the success or failure of the mission.”

  Alba searched the area for members of her company and, when finding someone, directed the person to the broken oak tree. Spying a small group of soldiers huddled together in the dirt, she hurried over, thinking they might be from her outfit. Leaning forward to speak, the lieutenant let out a gasp, turning away, crumpling on the ground in uncontrolled heaves.

  A female soldier lay bleeding and broken, her horribly disfigured face contorted in agony. Everything below her waist had been crushed flat and then twisted in a crazy corkscrew. While two of her companions tenderly held the woman’s hands, a third was wiping her face with a damp, bloody rag. All the while she was begging, “Kill me! Please! Oh, God, please kill me! Let me die! Let me die!” The crippled lighter had crashed upon the woman, then, as it skidded, dragged her along under it, mercilessly letting her live.

  “Lieutenant! Lieutenant!” The private accompanying Alba shouted, excitedly shaking her upper arm. “We gotta go! We can’t stay here!”

  As another projectile hissed by overhead, Alba turned toward her infantry private, vomit still dripping from her mouth as tears streamed down her face. She caustically sputtered, “Welcome to Hell! Welcome to Hell...!”

 

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