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       Coalition's End, p.1

           Karen Traviss
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Coalition's End


  By Karen Traviss

  Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact

  Star Wars Republic Commando: Triple Zero

  Star Wars Republic Commando: True Colors

  Gears of War: Aspho Fields

  Gears of War: Jacinto’s Remnant

  Gears of War: Anvil Gate

  A former defense correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist, KAREN TRAVISS has also worked as a police press officer, an advertising copywriter, and a journalism lecturer. She has served in both the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service and the Territorial Army. Karen currently lives in Devizes, Wiltshire.

  Find out more about Gears of War: Aspho Fields and other Orbit titles by registering for the free monthly newsletter at www.orbitbooks.net

  COPYRIGHT

  Published by Hachette Digital

  ISBN: 9780748131334

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2011 Karen Traviss

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

  Hachette Digital

  Little, Brown Book Group

  100 Victoria Embankment

  London, EC4Y 0DY

  www.hachette.co.uk

  Contents

  By Karen Traviss

  Copyright

  Acknowledgments

  Gears of War Timeline

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Epilogue

  To the memory of the British Merchant Navy seamen of the Arctic Convoys (1941–1945) who gave their lives to ensure that vital war supplies reached Russia, and for all 35,000 British merchant crew—men and women—who died during World War II to keep the “Red Duster” flying.

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  My thanks go to Mike Capps, Rod Fergusson, and Cliff Bleszinski at Epic Games, for letting me loose in their wonderful universe; Epic Games cinematics director Greg Mitchell, DC Comics editor Jim Chadwick, and the outrageously talented voice cast of Gears of War 3, for striking sparks off me; and Ed Schlesinger (senior editor, Gallery Books/Pocket Books) and Anthony Ziccardi (VP, Deputy Publisher, Gallery Books/Pocket Books), for making it happen. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of the parts—and a hell of a lot of fun.

  GEARS OF WAR TIMELINE

  (ALL DATES ARE SHOWN IN THE MODERN SERAN

  CALENDAR—BEFORE EMERGENCE OR AFTER

  EMERGENCE.)

  80 B.E. (APPROXIMATE)—A long-running global conflict begins to sweep the world of Sera as the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) and the Union of Independent Republics (UIR) fight over imulsion energy resources. This becomes known as the Pendulum Wars.

  17 B.E.—Infantry lieutenant Victor Hoffman holds the besieged Anvil Gate garrison against UIR forces and makes his name. Adam Fenix—a weapons physicist—leaves the army to work on his dream of the ultimate deterrent, an orbital laser weapon to end the Pendulum Wars.

  9 B.E.—Adam’s wife, Elain, a biologist, goes missing in the underground caves of Jacinto, leaving him with a young son to care for—Marcus.

  4 B.E.—Marcus Fenix enlists in the COG army against his father Adam’s wishes, serving alongside his boyhood friend Carlos Santiago.

  3. B.E.—Carlos’s younger brother Dominic—“Dom”— enlists.

  2 B.E.—Intelligence reveals the UIR is close to building its own satellite weapons system. A commando raid headed by Hoffman is staged to sabotage the UIR research station at Aspho and seize its data. Carlos Santiago and Major Helena Stroud (Anya Stroud’s mother) are killed in the battle. Hoffman, Marcus and Dom are decorated for gallantry. The seized data enables Adam Fenix to perfect his Hammer of Dawn orbital laser, which eventually brings the UIR to the negotiating table.

  SIX WEEKS BEFORE EMERGENCE DAY—The UIR surrenders and the Pendulum Wars are finally at an end, although a handful of small UIR states, including Gorasnaya, refuse to accept the armistice and vow to fight on.

  EMERGENCE DAY—With no apparent warning or motive, an unknown species of sentient creatures—the Locust Horde—erupts from underground caverns and attacks cities across Sera simultaneously. A quarter of Sera’s population is slaughtered in the initial attack. E-Day, as it becomes known, is the start of a fifteen-year war for survival.

  1 A.E.—The COG, fighting a losing rearguard action against the Locust, is driven back to Ephyra, the granite plateau where the Locust can’t tunnel. In a desperate bid to stop the Locust advance, new COG Chairman Richard Prescott orders the destruction of all Sera’s major cities using the Hammer of Dawn. Although civilians are urged to take refuge in Ephyra, few can reach the plateau in time and many millions die in the Hammer strikes.

  2 A.E.—The Locust, slowed but not stopped by the global destruction, are back in even greater numbers. The few civilians outside Ephyra who survived the Hammer strikes band together in gangs, living hand to mouth in the ruins. The Stranded, as they call themselves, see the COG as an enemy.

  10 A.E.—The Locust attack Ephyra. Sergeant Marcus Fenix disobeys Colonel Hoffman’s orders and tries to rescue his father, a decision that leads to the fall of Ephyra. Adam Fenix is buried in the rubble of the Fenix mansion when the Locust attack, and Marcus faces a court martial. His death sentence is commuted to forty years in Jacinto’s notoriously brutal prison, nicknamed the Slab.

  14 A.E.—The Locust overrun the prison, and the inmates are set free— except Marcus. Dom Santiago rescues him and Marcus rejoins the COG army. Using Adam Fenix’s research notes on the Locust tunnels, the COG detonates a Lightmass bomb underground, but the “grubs” are back in force a few weeks later. The human population of Sera has been reduced from billions to a handful, and the last COG bastion— Jacinto—is now under threat.

  14 A.E.—Chairman Prescott plans a final all-out assault on the Locust warrens by tunneling into their strongholds around Jacinto. The Locust in turn begin their push to take the city. The COG finds that the Locust have been waging an underground war with another aggressive species known as the Lambent, and were forced to the surface by them. Marcus and his fellow Gears find recordings by Adam Fenix in the Locust command center, describing how to flood the tunnels, and the COG makes a final, desperate decision to wipe out the advancing Locust. Evacuating the city, they deploy the Hammer of Dawn to sink Jacinto and drown the Locust forces.

  14 A.E.—The column of refugees moves from place to place evading the few surviving Locust, eventually settling on a remote volcanic island that the Locust never reached— Vectes, a former COG naval base. The local population has never seen a “grub,” but is plagued by Stranded pirate gangs. Forming an unexpected alliance with the last of the UIR’s Gorasnayans, the COG newcomers and the islanders drive off Stranded pirate gangs and begin to rebuild civilization.

  15 A.E.—The brief peace is shattered when Lambent life-forms appear in the seas around Vectes, destroying ships and sinking a Gorasnayan imulsion drilling platform, the last remaining source of imulsion fuel. Chairman Prescott is
found to have an encrypted data disk, the contents of which he refuses to reveal to Colonel Hoffman. The remnant of the COG is now effectively besieged on Vectes, fending off Lambent attacks from the sea.

  PROLOGUE

  TRANSMISSION BEGINS.

  LAMBENCY DETECTED IN INCREASING RANGE

  OF EXISTING LIFE-FORMS INCLUDING

  LEVIATHANS AND SMALLER MARINE

  CREATURES. TWO PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN

  SPECIES NOW SPREADING: AMBULANT POLYPS

  APPEAR TO PARASITIZE FAST-GROWING

  ORGANIC STRUCTURES NICKNAMED “STALKS.”

  POLYPS SELF-DETONATE. PLEASE ADVISE. DATA

  AND IMAGES TO FOLLOW. COG PERSONNEL

  FENIX, SANTIAGO, STROUD UNHARMED.

  TRANSMISSION ENDS.

  (TRANSMISSION SOURCE: UNKNOWN. RECEIVING STATION: UNKNOWN.)

  BOATHOUSE 7 WORKSHOP, NAVAL BASE, NEW JACINTO: LATE STORM, 15 A.E.

  Sam’s laughing her ass off.

  She’s been fixing her bike and giggling to herself for a while now, and then she just busts out laughing like someone invisible told her a joke. Now, I get moments like that too. But it’s the hooch. You understand, don’t ya? It’s been a long, long war. We all cope the best way we can.

  So I ask her. “You gonna share?”

  She’s almost crying. She has to set down the wrench while she gets her breath back. “Dizzy, have you seen Baird?”

  “Yeah, plenty. But he ain’t that funny.”

  “I mean his new workshop. His private workshop.”

  “Can’t say I have.”

  “He’s …” She takes a deep breath and tries again. “It’s…” Finally, she screws her eyes shut and takes a run at it, ’cos it’s the only way she’s gonna get it out, I reckon. “It’s in the old lavatory block. He’s set up his kit in one of the stalls and he’s using the crapper for a seat. I saw him.”

  That does it. She’s bent right over and I can’t hear anything now except wheezy gulps of air, but eventually she straightens up and there’s tears running down her face. Damn, it’s a nice thing to see someone laugh like that. However bad things get—and shit, they’re bad right now—some folks can still see the funny side of life.

  See, if you don’t concentrate on the good stuff, you go crazy. You gotta laugh, or you gotta love, or you gotta drink; that’s how you get through the day when you’ve been at war for as long as anyone can remember. The one thing you just can’t do is look it in the eye and see just what a goddamn mess we’re in, or else you end up like Hoffman. Or Marcus. Both of ’em with the weight of the world on their shoulders, and a lot older than either of ’em needs to be.

  But … lord-almighty know-it-all Corporal Damon S. Baird sitting on the john, all full of piss and importance? This I gotta see. “I better go take a look.”

  “He’s out on patrol this morning,” Sam says. “I’ll take you over there tonight. We’ll grab a camera from Barber and stalk him. Record the moment for posterity.” She starts giggling again. “Caption contest. Baird, full of shit… ah, so many jokes, so little time.”

  “What’s he doing, then? What’s so secret?”

  “No idea. I think Hoffman’s given him something to fix.” She winks. “But he spends a lot of time tinkering with that bot, too. I think they want to be alone.”

  She’s laughed herself out now, so she carries on working on her bike. But I can see she’s still thinking about Baird sat on his porcelain throne, because every so often I catch her grinning to herself.

  “Sometimes I’m glad he’s such a tosser,” she says. “I need an outlet, you know? A focus for my negative side. Like that thing they have on ships’ hulls.” She gestures with the wrench, frowning like she’s forgotten the word. “Come on, Diz, what’s it called? You were in the merchant navy. You know what I mean.”

  “A sacrifice block?”

  “That’s it.”

  “It takes the hit and stops the other metal getting corroded.”

  “Exactly. That’s it. Baird’s my sacrifice block.”

  She laughs and gets back to work. The world ain’t funny at all, truth to tell. We’ve run and run for fifteen years, and now we’ve painted our asses into a corner. This island’s just about the last nice place left on Sera because the Locust couldn’t tunnel this far out into the Serrano Ocean. But the Lambent—those assholes found us. They’re worse than those goddamn grubs, believe me, and now they’re here, right on our coast, blowing up our boats. They detonate, see. Walking bombs. They come in all shapes and sizes—crab things called polyps, tree things called stalks, even whalesized things and butt-ugly eels—and they got this weird glow about ’em kinda like jellyfish. That was why the grubs came out of their tunnels and started killing us. The glowies was down there killing them.

  Well, that’s one mystery solved, anyhow, even if we still don’t know squat about the glowies. And now we got nowhere left to run.

  Damn shame. It’s a real pretty island. I thought it’d be a good place for my girls to grow up safe, but all I done was drag ’em somewhere else even more dangerous. Maybe we shoulda stayed Stranded. You can hide better. You’re just a little rat in a sewer. Nobody knows you’re there.

  Anyway, it’s all quiet again—for the moment. I’m changing Betty’s gearbox fluid. The old girl’s showing her age. It’s tough to find parts for grindlift rigs, so Baird helps me make ’em. He ain’t so bad really. As long as I keep his mind on the nuts and bolts, he forgets that he thinks I’m a bum.

  So anyway—I’m under Betty, draining her reservoir, and I hear the doors open. I see boots walk by and I hear Colonel Hoffman say, “Sam, you got five minutes?”

  “Yes, sir,” she says, and the two of them wander outside. She’s gone for some time, maybe half an hour. By the time she comes back, I’m working on Betty’s electrics, so I can see Sam’s face as soon as she walks in. She don’t look so happy now.

  “What did Hoffman want?” I ask. The colonel’s real strung out at the moment. It’s the latest polyp attack. It’s started him fretting over Anvil Gate again, just when he oughta be forgetting it. “Everything okay?”

  “He finally told me how my dad got killed.” Sam sort of shakes her head. “He thought it was time I knew. All this polyp siege shit’s brought it back to him.”

  The siege of Anvil Gate was more than thirty years ago— way back in the Pendulum Wars, when we didn’t even know what a grub or a glowie was. Hoffman’s taken his own sweet time with that. It ain’t like him to be so squeamish. Sam’s named after her old man. He never lived to see her born. Damn, that just breaks my heart.

  “You wanna talk about it, Sam?”

  “It was quick.” I can see she’s hurting. “But Dad decided to stay.” And then she just stops.

  I got daughters. I can handle this. “Sorry, sweetie. I don’t understand.”

  “He stayed to defend the fort,” she says, picking up the wrench again like she needs something to take her mind off the news. “Hoffman said Dad had the chance to leave Anvil Gate when they evacuated the civvies. He could have left with my mother. But Hoffman said he wouldn’t leave his platoon behind.”

  Now most folks would call that a hero. Damn right: a man who stands his ground for his buddies, that’s a hero. The best man you can be. But I can tell Sam don’t agree with that. Gear or not, she’s still a little girl who never knew her daddy. I gotta pick my words real careful now.

  “Must have been a tough call for him, Sam.”

  She nods and starts working on the bike again. But her mind ain’t on it. She’s just going through the motions, working a plug this way and that without really moving it.

  “I hate myself,” she says at last. “All I could think at first was that he left me and Mum to stay with his mates. But I’m a Gear. I know it’s not that simple.”

  No, it ain’t, and it ain’t simple being a dad, neither. I didn’t exactly choose to join the army, see. I got drafted— Operation Lifeboat, Prescott’s smartass idea to turn Stranded bums like
me into Gears. You do your bit, and the government gives your family food and medicine. I let the COG press-gang me to save my little girls.

  You’d be amazed what a fella will do for his kids.

  “Your dad must’ve been real scared that you and your mom wouldn’t make it if he let the Indies win,” I say at last. “Like I was real scared my girls would die if I didn’t join the COG. Hardest goddamn thing I ever did.”

  I didn’t know Sergeant Samuel Byrne, but Colonel Hoffman says he was a good man. That’s word enough for me. I’m just telling Sam—Samantha Byrne—the truth as I see it.

  She looks up at me, eyes kinda glassy. You know what I like about her? She ain’t afraid to admit what she’s feeling. Tough don’t mean keeping it all bottled up. I hope she’s getting somewhere with Dom—poor bastard, still grieving—because they’d fit real well together. It’d do ’em both the power of good.

  “Thanks, Diz,” she says. “I’ll be okay.”

  You can look at it a couple of ways. Either Sam’s dad stayed at his post, or else he abandoned his family. I don’t know why Sam’s dad chose to stay and die. He had a whole lot of reasons, I reckon. Some of them wouldn’t make a speck of sense to anyone who wasn’t there, so they can just shut their mouths until they’re in the same shit and have to make the call. But I know Gears will die for their buddies. And I know that I’d do anything to make sure my girls grow up, even if I’m not there to see it.

  Because that’s what good fathers do. And your kids might not always love you for doing what’s best for ’em, but that goes with the territory.

  The right thing ain’t always the popular thing for a fella to do.

  You just gotta hope that one day they all understand what we had to do to survive.

  CHAPTER 1

  So how many different varieties do those frigging glowies come in?

 

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