Void star, p.1
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       Void Star, p.1

           J.P. Yager
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Void Star
VOID STAR

  By J.P. Yager

  Copyright: Joseph P. Yager 2012

  All rights reserved. This material may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of the copyright holder. For permission, contact j.p.yager@hotmail.com.

  Cover art: Graphiczxdesigns.zenfolio.com

  Edited by: Lora @ Createspace.com

  Prologue

  He ran as fast as his legs could go. Violent explosions struck at the earth and sent shock waves coursing through him from every direction. Blasts of fire ripped up soft jungle soil on both sides of his scrambling body as more laser-guided projectiles and energy bursts screamed across the sky, hungry for destruction. The invaders were everywhere.

  By all appearances, his home world, Vale, was ending.

  The reptilian-hominid, a Salarian named Dosh, barreled through the thick vegetation. From head to toe, he resembled a lizard that had taken a different evolutionary path toward human with his green and orange scale-covered skin and his large, round head and intelligent eyes.

  Dosh made sure his pack was still on his back. He could feel its weight across his shoulders, but there was just too much at risk if he lost it, so he felt it necessary to make frequent checks. The surface of his planet was being ravaged by invaders determined to find the exact thing he was running through the jungle carrying. His people were sacrificing everything, so that he alone could succeed.

  His heart pounded with fear. Somewhere out there were battleships as big as many planets. Thousands of deadly fighter-bombers were consistently being released on them like a plague. Disengaged from their mother ship, these carriers of death fell upon their world like meteors, free to unleash their malice. The enemy was too great in numbers for their paltry defenses to withstand. Against these insurmountable odds, he had managed to escape before they could kill or capture him.

  Shouldering the impossible weight of the task at hand, Dosh forced himself to push on. His bravery would have to make up for his lack of height, speed, and agility.

  Dosh leaped over fallen trees, narrow rivers, and fresh holes in the ground. Smaller critters than he bounded along with him, between his feet, in hopes of finding safety in a world gone mad.

  In the artificial winds, his light-brown and forest-green robes billowed out behind him, dirt and water weighing down the bottoms. Cuts and bruises ran along his scaled face. His purple eyes searched the area 270 degrees before him, taking in low-flying aircraft, bursts of flame, and the ever-changing terrain. His jungle was burning, its ancient trees shredded.

  After loping down into a shallow valley, Dosh took a moment to catch his breath. The familiar smell of white Hamasa flowers, which grew around the perimeter of his destination, brought respite and relief. The light citrus fragrance took him back to more peaceful times. He remembered running through the jungle for fun, playing games, and mating—but not for survival, not for the fate of all who lived.

  A flash of metal detonated before Dosh, throwing him through the jungle in a violent tangle. Tree branches broke across his face as he flew blindly through the woods and landed in a bloody mess. All he could see was swirling darkness.

  The darkness.

  The thought of it grabbed at what was left of his courage and tried to shake it loose. That unstoppable black evil that had been unleashed into the universe was coming. He had to escape his world to stop it.

  The sound of thousands of ships flying irregularly overhead thundered against his eardrums. It shook him back to reality. He looked up to see the enemy ships swarming overhead like locusts. They were going to find him.

  Get up, he told himself. You are not dead.

  Dosh did his best to bury the pain deep in his mind. The fate of countless worlds depended on him.

  He pushed himself off the ground and popped his arm back into place. When the muscle tendons met, the pain eased, though only slightly. Like his reptilian ancestors, healing came second nature. His tailed was battered and may fall off, but it was the least of his concerns.

  A quick scan around the lush jungle floor showed his pack hanging on a bush nearby. He ran toward it, slung it back over his shoulder, and took off toward his hidden ship as a volley of bombs crashed through the expanse behind him.

  After another several meters, Dosh reached the hatch. He pulled up what looked like a piece of forest floor, revealing the secret bunker. He swung his legs in and slid down the ladder inside. When he hit bottom, he turned to his ship.

  The ship was a JS-9 hypersonic class, capable of three times light speed. It had come at a bargain since being discontinued centuries earlier for numerous flight abnormalities that occurred at light speed. Dosh had no other choice.

  Its sleek body was covered in a thick sheet of dust and cobwebs. He wished he had taken it out more. And he worried that it wasn’t the quickest craft—though he only had to outrun his enemy.

  Dosh hit the wall switch. Machinery crunched and grumbled as the hidden takeoff strip rose to the surface. He threw his case inside the cockpit and climbed in.

  It will be all right, he tried to convince himself. Once he left the atmosphere, he would be free. Then he could find the others to help him. Ultimately, he had to find the Nymarian, Cleph’thera. He would know what to do with the star and how to find the one who could use it. He would not allow his mind to wander to any outcome except getting out of this alive.

  When the bunker had completed its transformation into a useable takeoff pad, he punched the ignition. Thrusters awakened angrily from their long slumber. In seconds, the craft spun to life and shot forward. The JS-9 erupted from its hiding place.

  The choleric jungle reached down to swipe at him, leaves and branches slapping the windshield, before clearing to bright-orange sky. He did his best to ignore the fighters swirling around him, turning to intercept him. He just pushed down on the throttle.

  “Incoming. Countermeasures away.” The ship’s automated system warned.

  Decoy flares burst out behind him as he continued to shoot into the sky. Dosh kept an eye on his force drive as it warmed up for light-speed travel.

  The moment he thought he was clear; he felt his ship take a hit. Immediately, the entire aft right side exploded out.

  The force of the impact threw the ship into a tailspin. It stopped ascending and began its long fall back to the ground.

  Out of desperation, Dosh flicked open the guarded red switch on the middle console and ejected his emergency beacon into space.

  His mind went wild as he spun around uncontrollably through the sky. One thought pushed through the rest: Don’t let them get it. He desperately tried to reach for his bag, but the centripetal force kept him glued to his seat, unable to move. It was just out of arm’s reach in front of him.

  The ship continued its frantic descent to the ground. He wanted to undo his harness to try to get at it, but he wouldn’t survive the crash if he did so. His only hope was luck.

  As he hit one thousand meters, the automatic pilot protection system triggered. The top of the ship blew off, and his seat was thrown out. He watched his pack spin away from him and disappear down. Seconds later, his ship crashed into the jungle and exploded in a ball of fire.

  Dosh glided his chute down into an open field with a headwind in his face. The moment his seat touched ground, he unbuckled himself and ran. He kept all his focus on where he’d seen the case vanish. He arrived at a riverbed and was thankful to find it floating gently downstream. It was still largely intact though charred and smoking slightly.

  Before he could plan another way to escape the planet, he realized he had been surrounded. Enemy craft had landed all around his location. An announcement came from the intruders to relinquish the bag.

  And yet, faced with these terrible odd
s, he refused to drop anything. As he stared at the oncoming soldiers, a wild thought went through his mind. Destroy it. He scolded himself. All hope would be lost if he did that, even if it was possible, which it probably wasn’t. It was better for now that it fall into enemy hands with the hope that it would be intercepted. Maybe his allies would come across his beacon. Maybe hope could live on. Maybe…maybe not. The Ruverans would have destroyed it by now.

  A long figure emerged from one of the ships. Its ship was different from the others. It had the look of dried human blood, with ivory-white highlights. The figure was elaborately adorned in the Ruveran Empire’s colors of midnight black and vermillion red; a menacingly sharp helmet perched between the officer’s shoulders. A laser gun flashed maliciously in black-gloved hands as the intruder seemed to be enjoying poor Dosh’s predicament.

  “That belongs to us now,” a robotic voice said evenly.

  “You don’t understand what you are doing,” Dosh pleaded. The three-and-a-half-foot Salarian looked up at the indistinguishable face of evil. “We have to find the chosen one. This doesn’t belong to anyone else.”

  This figure, which was mostly likely a robot or robot-hybrid, was right in front of Dosh now, his hand outstretched. “Hand it over.”

  Dosh looked around. The enemy soldiers didn’t look like they would listen to his warning either. They didn’t care that he had the last hope to save them all. He had to give it up. There wasn’t any other choice. He finally relented and let the dark figure take his pack away.

  As soon as the pack left his fingers, the dark figure swung its weapon around in a flash of movement. Dosh never saw it coming. The gun struck him hard against his head, and he went down, unconscious. The dark figure grabbed the small reptilian man’s collar and dragged him effortlessly across the ground.

  Then the ominous figure walked back to its craft and dropped the little creature. The second-in-command would handle it.

  “Render…did he have it?” the other officer picked up the reptile and threw him on board his ship.

  “Let’s see,” came the robotic reply. He unlatched the bag and let the contents slide out. In his hand was a small, ordinary-looking orb. It was as large as a small melon, easily held in one hand. Around its smooth glass surface was a metallic ring that held it locked closed. “Let Master Velkas know we have it.”

  Render boarded the sharp red ship, a retinue following after. The door closed as the engines roared back to life. It shot off, followed shortly by the entire fleet that had devastated the planet in the attack.

  A lone figure stood watching them go from the forest, helpless to stop them from taking his son. He could feel the power of the star and the life signature of Dosh growing ever farther from reach. For the last several centuries, the star had never called others to help it leave, to find a wielder to open the mystery held within. And now it was gone.

  The only hope of stopping the encroaching darkness was in the wrong hands.

  -o-

  Above all else, Glade hated space travel.

  The Asterion, a life form that most closely resembled the Earthen legend of the minotaur, sat wearily in his turret seat. After seventeen hours straight of dogfighting in open space, his mane of dark-brown and black fur was matted down and grungy. After being in the ship that long, filth just found you and held on. His own stink was killing him as much as the pain in his hooves from his having sat for so long.

  He screwed the cap off another energy ale. It tasted worse than it looked. He began his day drinking them and soon found that he was just trying to outrun the original crash of the first one. Blasted Bregomon ales.

  Near the edge of known space, called the Outer Rim by most, his squad had been out doing defensive sweeps of their planet. A band of marauders had come crashing through their perimeters earlier that day, and after a fierce fight, the intruders were driven off. Now, hours later, they were making sure they’d gotten rid of all of them. Duty bound to continue in spite of the monotony, Glade sat in the stew of smells that he had created and hoped they would call off these idiotic runs.

  “Glade! Pay attention!” his pilot screamed over their main com channel.

  Glade looked up from his bottle. He crushed the can and let it fall into the pile at his boots. There wasn’t anything to see in his sights. “Pilot, Gunner One. Negative targets,” Glade reported. His seat glided in its track as he continued to search around, his mounted gun following.

  “Pilot, Rear Gunner. I have nothing too,” came the reply from his wingman and closest friend, Lefty. He always had his back.

  The ship’s radar operator’s voice came over com, “You two have to be kidding. You don’t see that massive force coming? It’s all over my screen up here!”

  “When did it appear?”

  “Just seconds ago. They look fast, sir.”

  “Warn the others,” the pilot commanded.

  “They already know, sir.”

  Glade strained his eyes. He could see the flight leader’s ship floating ahead of the formation. Beyond that, he counted the rest of their ships in close proximity. He didn’t see anything else besides them, just endless space.

  His radio crackled, and he heard their controller over the speaker. “Fleet thirteen and twenty-one are both gone.”

  “That’s impossible!” Glade’s pilot exclaimed.

  Glade searched for where those squadrons had been flying. They were on the other side of their planet doing their own pattern work past the white moon.

  Then, out of that black space beyond, Glade did see something emerging, but it wasn’t an enemy force. It looked like a black tidal wave in space. He squinted against the solar system’s sun and focused on it to make sure the ale wasn’t playing tricks on his eyes.

  Spinning tentacles of darkness were flying out of the speeding mass. The body of it took up the entire side of their galaxy, and it looked like it was coming to crush them like a seething wall of death from the unexplored space beyond the Outer Rim.

  “Pilot, Gunner One. We have to get out of here. Now!” Glade’s mouth dropped as it streaked closer. Their home planet, which rested between the incoming blackness and them, was soon struck by the mass. The planet appeared to shatter into little pieces, which the blackness ate up, and then it was…gone. The sun went out like it had never existed. It was too impossible to watch; his entire galaxy had just been erased.

  “We…we can’t break formation,” the pilot called. His voice indicated that he was looking at the same thing. Panic laced his words.

  Sure, there was protocol. Glade understood that. He was part of a military body. No matter what happened, you never left your post—even in the face of death. But now wasn’t the time to stay on a sinking ship or follow orders that had quickly become obsolete. Fear reached out from the abyss of his mind and forced him to react, overriding lessons of war learned since birth

  Glade dropped down out of his turret seat and jumped into the closest escape pod. He no longer cared about anything except getting away from what was coming. The moment he was in, he ejected the pod. It shot off with a thunderous boom.

  Over the pod’s PA system, he heard, “You fool! I hope you realize that you are going to be charged with everything I can come up with. Dereliction of duty, abandoning your post, and—”

  Glade watched from the pod as the darkness overtook his squadron.

  Nobody would ever know he had abandoned anything. His conscience could bother him another day; at least he’d still exist. He buried his honor under a layer of blind fear.

  He turned away from the ugly black tidal wave of death. The little pod’s light-speed drive maxed out. As soon as it hit full bars, he engaged it and shot blindly into the universe.

  Finally, he caught his breath, and his mind latched onto a certain truth he couldn’t escape: the darkness would find him. It was coming for them all.

  Part One:

  The Darkness

  “Rysta, there isn’t a species in existence that could battle th
e Dark One. We will be stuck here forced to watch the end of existence.”

  “Patience, Mykia. Apparently, you know little of the human race.”

  Chapter 1

 

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