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       Deadly Enemy - Logan Ryvenbark's Saga 1, p.1

           Gray Lanter
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Deadly Enemy - Logan Ryvenbark's Saga 1
DEADLY ENEMY

  (Logan Ryvenbark's Saga - Book 1)

  Gray Lanter

  Blue Shelf Bookstore

  No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

  Published by BlueShelfBookstore

  www.blueshelfbookstore.com

  Deadly Enemy

  © 2017 BlueShelfBookstore

  All rights reserved

  For you convenience, this is a link to the next book on the Logan Ryvenbark’s Saga and the Discounted Box Set

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  I’m publishing a second Series soon!

  Chapter 1

  “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result” Winston Churchill once said.

  There is great truth in that statement, especially when considering the alternative. Flesh and blood cannot stand up to a speeding, burning piece of lead. Nor can it survive a laser frying muscle and bone with the precision of a surgical scalpel. Of course, today we have the advantage over soldiers of the past. The medical nanos jump into action, repairing blood vessels, rebuilding organs and creating new flesh to plug the bullet holes. You're as good as new if the wound is not too serious. However, when half your body is blown away, there's little even the nanos can do.

  But I've never liked using the memory drugs to erase the knowledge of battle wounds. Civilians use memory wipes to cast bad memories into oblivion, and so are able to forget a bad childhood or traumatic events. Not soldiers. You learn hard lessons in battle, and you should remember, not forget them. A few soldiers use the drugs, but I never have.

  But the nanos, as marvelously high-tech as they are, are nature's liars. I look at my body in the mirror and see no scars, no rough, ragged redness on the pale skin. Nothing to show the wounds I have received. But my mind remembers them. It's incongruous to view the skin and know it should show the ravages of battle. Some soldiers have a though emotional time with that.

  Eternally young. And eternally waiting for the next battle. Because I'm Genrich, I age very slowly. When I look at my face, my mind tells me I should look older — and wiser for that matter. I guess I might look twenty-five, maybe twenty-seven, but I have lived more years than that.

  I have chosen this profession, so I can't complain. I chose it because, thanks to a combination of genetics and other skills, I am good at it. Of course it always helps to have a cause worth fighting for. In this age of nanobites and memory drugs, what often matters most are not high-tech skills but rather, as the poet said, the small, often unremembered, acts of kindness.

  Which is why I was so proud of the Distinguished Service Medal the Deltans bestowed upon me. After the war they fought with the Critterrans, they didn’t have a lot of time for thanks, so the ceremony didn’t take long. The Deltan vice president, an older man — there is no Genrich technology on their planet — awarded me the green ribbon with the gold star. His aged hands trembled slightly as he placed the medal around my neck. He shook my hand and almost cried as he thanked me for helping to save his planet and his people. I was touched. My friends, Commander Rembrante Cleed and Lt. Jade O’Malley, also received the DSM. They’re military professionals, while I’m in a private force and usually work for cash.

  Unlike their enemies, the Deltans are a benevolent race who know and appreciate the concept of honor. Which is another reason I was so pleased with the medal. When honorable men and women present you with an award, it’s well worth keeping. As I said, it’s nice to have something worth fighting for.

  Which is why I couldn’t turn Belen down when she asked me for help.

  The mountain winds howled like a drunken banshee and plunked high-powered snow bullet into the windshield. The heat evaporated the snow, only to have a second volley slam the plastic glass. I looked out the window and wondered why Belen desired a mountain home. An ice mountain home.

  The transport hummed quietly as it rolled along in the snow. Some people are uncomfortable with driverless vehicles, but they don't cause me any anxiety. The computer handled the wet, twisting roads like a NASCAR driver. The swirling storm had stripped the leaves from most of the trees. They held up their bare snow-covered branches to the sky, as if to surrender.

  Belen and I shared a friendly yet turbulent past, and I wondered why she wanted to see me. I assumed it had something to do with my profession as a soldier-of-fortune. She did have a fortune. A considerable one. Inherited some of it, and built up the rest with talent, genius and hard work, 15-hour-a-day ambition. But she always held her cards close to her chest. She had a penchant for secrecy that annoyed me at times. But when you have built several successful corporations, you probably develop a few annoying tics along the way.

  When the car reached the house, the covered driveway zoomed out to meet us. It attached itself to the car door, so that I was protected from the snow and sleet. For a man who has dodged bullets and lasers, I found the architectural convenience a bit amusing.

  The door scanner pricked my thumb. It was painless, and cheap for that matter. It would run all the chem and bio tests, but I wouldn’t be billed. The green letters on a black background screen asked, ARE YOU:

  (1) Synthetic

  (2) An AI

  (3) Android

  (4) Nano-Mutant

  (5) Bio-Artificial

  (6) Human

  There were a few other classifications after human. Looking at the list I became slightly depressed. The last time I saw such a checklist, humans were listed fourth. The species must be dropping in prestige.

  “Genrich human,” I said.

  The security computer had a drab, husky voice. “Name?”

  “Logan Ryvenbark. I’m expected.”

  “Your gun, sir.”

  “What about it?”

  “Would you please deposit it on the tray?”

  “No.”

  A silence followed. Perhaps the computer was baffled.

  “Then, sir, I cannot let you in,” it finally said.

  “Fine,” I said.

  I turned around, then heard the feminine voice override.

  “Open the door, Norman. Mr. Ryvenbark doesn’t even like to shower without his weapon. This one time we shall indulge him.”

  The computer whined and the door clicked open. The house was a two- story spacious dwelling just this side of being a mansion. I walked across the palatial front room and climbed the stairs. A robot servant escorted me to a second floor office.

  Belen Morganthal rose behind the large ornate desk and walked toward me. She was tall, almost six feet, and was wearing an elegant black pants suit trimmed with gold. The sparkling brown hair fell across her shoulders. I always thought her voice held something of a military bearing. As she greeted me, I kissed her cheek.

  “Thank you for coming, Logan.”

  I nodded.

  “Please sit down.”

  Must be important, I thought. Belen did not usually say “please”. Usually she just issued orders and people obeyed. I eased down into a well-cushioned green chair and crossed my legs. It was a large room with a high ceiling. Deep carpet. The robot bodyguard, white with black trim, stood silent a few feet behind her desk. He could have been a statue except for the menacing aura around him, as palpable as the scent of death on a battlefield. The high, arched windows were not covered with drapes, so you could see the snow-covered mountains. A few evergreens stood a defiant dark green against the white background.

  “Good to see you again, Belen. Why did you want to talk to me?”

/>   I admired her brown eyes. Belen had beautiful brown eyes. They sparkled and could hypnotize you. They had a laser intensity that could melt steel. When she made up her mind about an issue, it was impossible to change it.

  Her steel gaze focused on me. “I am putting together an expedition to Sandeling and I would like it to be led by you.”

  “Why me?”

  She eased her hips on the edge of the black walnut desk and crossed her arms. “We have a long and rather complicated history, Logan.”

  “Long, complicated, enjoyable.”

  She nodded. “We had many good times.”

  “Yes.”

  “You are one of the very few people I would trust to accomplish this mission.”

  Chapter 2

  I was standing outside at the entrance to our base on Sandeling. But there was nothing to see on Sandeling. It’s an ice world. Ten feet of snow, a dark sky, icy winds and swirling snow was all there was in view. Minus 80 on this piece of miserable frozen real estate. And this was one of our better days. It was 150 below at the poles, and the winds howled even fiercer there. Or so I had been told — I wasn’t going to check it out myself.

  I had the blue thermal suit on and continually gave a cheer for science. The thin blue coating over my skin allowed me to stay at 75 degrees. Even so, I still wore the beige Arctic winter coat. It was almost impossible to tear or rip a thermal suit, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

  Even with the suit, I didn’t dare breathe. The cold air would frost my lungs. The medical nanos gave us some protection but, no matter how good the nanos, it wasn’t wise to breathe minus 80 degree air without a mask. I sighed. I looked around and saw nothing but blue ice and white snow.

  The squad was grumbling and I didn’t blame them. We were a military unit. The men and women were used to action. They didn’t like doing nothing on a barren world with no idea about what our mission was.

  The problem was I couldn’t tell them much. I heard the whiff of air as the entrance opened. Astrid was standing there in her Arctic suit.

  “The squad is assembled, major.”

  “Thanks. I wish I had something solid to tell them.”

  The door closed behind me. I peeled back my hood. So did Astrid. She hummed a tune and smiled. She was the only one of Ryvenbark’s Raiders who felt like humming. Astrid has a pleasant personality and an optimistic nature. When I'd married her, I'd told her we might have been called on to go to the most unlikely, dangerous and miserable places.

  “As long as you’re with me, I’m happy,” she'd replied.

  This planet was testing that mental fortitude.

  At one time this planet had an advanced civilization. The corridors and technology of the underground passages were impressive. Nobody knows what happened to the race. They must have been humanoids. The accommodations we had found fit a two-armed, two-legged species. But they didn’t leave much information about their race or what caused the permanent Arctic freeze of their world. We had a few basics we'd been able to decipher and not much more. We were in the middle of a continent in the northern hemisphere of this world. But the southern continents were not much better. Ice, snow, wind and nothing else. The North Pole conditions are everywhere on this planet.

  There were huge caverns below the surface that could accommodate, by our best guess, several million people; but there was no sign of life. Nothing below surface and certainly nothing above it.

  The two dozen members of my squad were assembling in a meeting room. They stood when I came in and walked to the podium. I waved hello and told them to sit down.

  “Ladies and gentleman, I don’t like to repeat the obvious, but I will this once. We have been on the delightful frozen paradise for two weeks and, as you have noticed, nothing has happened. I know most of you are wondering why we’re here.”

  “Practicing for the Winter Olympics, major?” came a voice.

  The line brought laughter from the crowd.

  “The fact is, I don’t know why we’re here. As you know, we work for Belen Morganthal, who has a string of companies and contacts with the highest officials of the Federation. Ms. Morganthal has done favors for the Federation from time to time. I have a hunch this is a favor. But they did not tell her why they wanted an expedition to this planet. Knowing the Federation, it’s possible this is some type of huge mistake. But I was ordered to come here for an indeterminate amount of time, with the maximum stay at three months. That’s why I asked for volunteers. This is one of the few times we simply do not know what our mission actually is. Apparently, we are going to be up against boredom.”

  Some laughter came from the crowd, with a few anguished groans too.

  “However, I do know this. For the Federation this is a very important mission. The reason I know that is we are expensive. We don’t come cheap.”

  More laughter came from the crowd.

  “So, even if you do nothing, you are being paid union wages, high union wages. Of course sometimes governments, since they’re spending other people’s money, can invest in boondoggles. Perhaps they have with this mission.

  “But beyond that, I know as much as you did. We will keep exploring and gathering scientific information. If nothing happens, we will return to base in three months, if not before. Meanwhile, we can organize baseball teams or something,” I said.

  Lieutenant Blackjack Curry raised his hand. When I recognized him, he stood up. Blackjack got his nickname for being an excellent blackjack player. He was good in poker and roulette too. He could have made a career of professional gambling, but he liked adventure.

  “Excuse me, sir. From what I understand, Ms. Morganthal is a very intelligent woman. Cunning too. And shrewd. But she gave no indication of what this mission was about? None whatsoever?”

  “None whatsoever. If she knew, I think she would have told me. We’re friends, and our friendship goes back a long way. Whatever the Federation wanted checked out here, they held it close to their chests.”

  “Probably nothing,” Blackjack said. “When could the Federation ever keep a secret?”

  “Once in a while,” I responded. “That’s all I have to say. Wish it was better news. However, I was advised the hologram is up so you can amuse yourselves by watching the greatest baseball games in history.”

  “Or watching Lt. Alvarez take a shower.”

  The whole squad laughed, including Lt. Carli Alvarez, a tall, strikingly beautiful brunette. She looked back toward the soldier who made the comment.

  “In your dreams, Ritter. The hologram doesn’t have me in its settings.”

  “Great. Frozen world and defective equipment,” Ritter said.

  After a few more grumbles, the squad broke up. I was glad our supplies included ample amounts of liquor. Kayli Neugen, our Cajun Asian astrophysicist, walked up and saluted. We were a military unit but tended to be flexible about a great many things. If Kayli saluted, it was an indication that she wanted a serious talk. I saluted back.

  “Can we go topside, sir? I’d like to discuss a few things with you.”

  “Would the cold, barren nothingness facilitate our conversation?”

  She merely grabbed her Arctic orange coat and put it on. Roughly translated, that meant yes. I put on my Arctic coat, my goggles and followed her.

  The surface of the world hadn’t change much. Except maybe the wind howled even louder than it had previously. Tons of snow and ice still stretched as far as the eye could see. Towers, perhaps five feet tall, of blue ice dotted the landscape. With the howling breezes, I didn’t want to know what the windchill factor was. Even in my thermal suit, I could feel the chill.

  “Logan, this is not normal,” she said.

  “Of course it’s not normal. Most livable planets have items such as trees and grass and oceans and temperatures that range from 30 to 90 degrees on most days. Most planets have polar regions only in the polar regions,” I said. “This is one vast North Pole.”

  “It was not always like this. We know
that. At one time this planet had an atmosphere very much like Earth.”

  “A million years in the past Earth looked different too.”

  “That’s the problem. When we first arrived I thought some terrible event had happened a long time ago and scarred the planet. Until then, the planet was a paradise. Or if not a paradise, the weather was a lot better than this.”

  “So, what happened?”

  Kayli shook her head. “I don’t know. I’m an astrophysicist. I’m not a meteorologist. Perhaps we should have brought some climate specialists along on the mission.”

  “None of those guys or girls volunteered.”

  “Belen could have persuaded one. She has a way of twisting your arm, but in such a nice way you don’t know you’re being pressured.” She crossed her arms. “Anyway, something changed here and something cataclysmic happened. And it’s still happening. You have noticed this planet is the fourth from the sun in the solar system?”

  “For what it’s worth, yes,” I said.

  “It’s only about half a million miles farther from this sun as Earth is from our sun. Just a half million miles.”

  I was getting cold and grouchy.

  “Cajun, I’m getting tired of this world and we’ve only been here two weeks. So please, remember that I have great respect and affection for you when I ask, ‘So what?’ Are we charting out a trip?”

  She chuckled, and the chuckles continued until her whole body shook.

  “How does Astrid put up with you?”

  “I don’t know. I’ve asked myself that many times and have never arrived at a satisfactory answer. I merely attribute it to the grace of God.”

  “Well, I reciprocate the respect and affection and, for that reason, I won’t smack you.”

  “Thanks. Besides, you’re not supposed to smack your commanding officer. He’s really a very nice guy.”

  “The reason why the mileage is important is because the sun should be melting this ice and snow. In terms of what we know about the laws of physics, this planet should be like Earth in terms of climate. There should be two poles, one on the north and one on the South, with most of the rest of the planet having moderate temperatures. This planet is contrary to all the laws of physics we know. That’s why it makes me very, very uneasy. I like the laws of physics and astrophysics. I am comfortable with them. With physical laws, you know what will happen. You can predict outcomes based on those never-changing laws. But this planet changes everything.” She pointed down toward the ice we were standing on. “The ice and snow should be melting. According to my calculations, this should be summer on this planet and the temperature should be about 85.”

 
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