Across the Wounded Galaxy
by Rex Hurst
Softcover 267 pages
Softcover 267 pages
A forced grown Gen-Human, only three months from his decanting bottle, is shanghaied by a sadistic pirate clan. Three aliens track a gleeful villain who is hell-bent on destroying his own world. A military failure on a ruined planet finds only one chance left for personal glory. All their paths collide together in a galaxy at war. Worlds destroyed. Civilizations ruined. Cities devastated. Join them on this trek across a wounded galaxy. Included here is Chapter 1.
Planet of Origin: None
Description: An artificially engineered species, designed to shore up the ranks of the genetically wounded Human race. They are force grown in vats with an average gestation period of four months. Their occupations are predetermined according to commercial demand and a skill set is chemically implanted into their brains. They are mostly employed in bureaucratic and middle management careers or commissioned as lower echelon military officers. While their memory and physical skills are a step above the average Human, their emotional growth varies greatly from their parent race.
Freaky Fact: Due to a lack of childhood indoctrination and societal bigotries, Gen-Humans tend to be attracted to people who they feel are “interesting looking”; ie those who differ wildly from the high standard of beauty to which Gen-Humans themselves are sculpted. Those people usually believe that they’ve hit the jackpot.
There was a splash of gore and intestines. The masked Phentari whirled, a chainsword clutched in each of its four tentacles. The guard fell apart before him, sliced into four sections across the torso. Ah what skill, what nerve, it took to do that. An accomplishment requiring hours of practice. The Phentari swiped at a cowering nurse, carving off half her face. It was an act of pure sadism, doing nothing to advance the plot. The Phentari revved its swords and lurched into the maternity ward.
There were two guards in the ward, both firing pistols with impunity. Rather risky thing to do in a hidden room filled with babies. After taking a few hits, the Phentari somersaulted over a crib and speared one guard in the abdomen while simultaneously decapitating the other. The obstacles dealt with, the Phentari raised its weapons. Remember, babies were worth 10 points and preemies 20.
With the second warning Drake flipped off the game, Lone Phentari 2: Mass Murder is My Hobby, and sat up in his steel chair, pretending to be engaged in his work. He had uploaded a restricted program into his system that warned him whenever the supervisor or any of his cronies were logging in to monitor Drake’s work, giving him time to spruce himself up.
Drake- DKE-k0018 (as was his full name) was employed in an administrative capacity on the Brethia Stargate Project. Stargates created a stable wormhole from one gate to another. They allowed a ship to move easily from star to star, galaxy to galaxy, without needing to employ warp drive or dip into hyperspace. Easily the quickest method of travel, the demand was so great that a ship could wait for weeks before getting clearance to enter. And with the energy required to maintain these holes, the cost for Stargate travel was appropriately astronomical.
The Brethia Stargate was an attempt by the Mutzachan Trade Council to create a structure to power hundreds of stargates. To achieve this, they were building a Dyson sphere around the system’s star (with a surface area of 92 billion Earths) to absorb every iota of solar energy emanating from the heavenly body and, after 104 years of construction, it was only 35% complete. It was, quite simply, the single greatest feat of astro-engineering ever attempted. And Drake was bored silly by it.
By its nature this amazing attempt created incredible amounts of administrative difficulties in all areas- from storage of construction supplies, to housing the ten million workers, to the acquisition of enough paper products so that everyone could clean themselves. This is where Drake came in, or rather Drake’s batch. The entire DKE series, all 50,000 of them, had been developed to address the organizational issues, specifically spoiled food indexing, hazardous material disposal, and septic management. Laugh if you want, but the amount of excrement generated each month could have created its own small moon orbiting the station.
Day after climate controlled day it was the same grind. Type figures, check figures, adjust figures, order figures. Then walk back to his designated rest area, consume the daily food allotment, complete the regulation exercise regimen, engage in the compulsory social hour with his assigned friend group, watch the film being shown that night, and pass out in his sleep cylinder. One day meshed invisibly into another.
A waterfall of tiny numbers streamed over Drake’s monitor. It took all of his effort not to sigh or yawn. To the average supervisor (and Drake’s was very average) it looked as if he was sitting in rapt attention, taking in each integer flooding his vision. In reality, his mind was elsewhere.
After I take care of the Maternity Ward, I should double back and see if any patients have respawned in the Leukemia Ward. If they haven’t, I can toss an incendiary device into the Burns Unit and see who blows up. If that goes well, I should have enough points to earn the Blood Soaked Achievement!
A further buzz indicated that his Mutzachan superior’s omnipresent eye had cast his gaze at another hapless middle manager. Drake slouched back in his chair and sighed. He wasn’t bad at his job. He couldn’t help but be competent. Having been decanted only three months prior, practically the only knowledge rattling around in his head was the implanted managerial skill suite. It’s just that the thing he was bred to be good at didn’t interest him.
Technically the Gen-Human species were designed to be fanatically enthusiastic about their assigned field, but as Drake himself was a living testament to, it was extremely difficult to genetically engineer a body’s personality. One minor fluctuation in the DNA coding could result in a host of new quirks and mental disorders. It was probably why the species had such an abnormally high rate of schizophrenia.
Jake-DKE-r0865, Drake’s co-worker from down the hall, popped his head into the pod.
“Hey,” Jake said. “Did you see? I got in the upper twentieth for Mazian Bubble Bounce this week! Now that’s a feat!”
“Great, buddy. Congratulations.”
Mazian Bubble Bounce was a game where you tried to keep an amorphous grey blob afloat using a combination of green, red, and blue bubbles, while avoiding random dropping needles. This was a favorite among the DKE series as it depended primarily on muscle memory and required no actual higher brain usage. Some of the others had created a secret leaderboard where they competed for the high score, but Drake didn’t partake. He just liked to lazily shoot things.
“When are you gonna join in?” Jake asked. “That way we can challenge each other. It’ll be fun. Match our wits.”
“I dunno if I want to.”
“Ahh you never know what you want,” Jake said and left.
What did he want? He wasn’t so sure. Something exciting that he could brag about. Something on the edge. Something that others would ooh and ahh over when they heard. Like a hero from the movies, or the Spiff Blasthandy Tri-V show. They’d slap him on the shoulder and call him brave, maybe buy him a beer. He’d never had any alcohol, but the vids made it look great. Yeah that was Drake’s dream, as vague as it was.
He snapped to. There had been a noise far far away, one that was distinctly different from the usual hums and buzzes of his artificial environment. He couldn’t exactly place it. Then his screen flickered and the near fleshless face of a Zen Rigeln appeared.
Drake knew the species without having met any, they being one of the 12 core races making up the Galactic Alliance. Zens tended to adhere to a religious philosophy of pacifism and healing, codified in a series of interminable rituals and exhausting canons that was of little use to any outsider except as a cure for insomnia. The Zen’s had a reputation for being sanctimonious, but this one seemed different.
“Hello,” the Zen said in the standard trade dialect, “I don’t know you… but I hate you!”
Drake heard the words echoed in the hallway and stepped out to see that every monitor and screen had been hijacked. If this unknown person had managed to send his message to the entire station, it was indeed an impressive hack.
“I hate you because you live. I hate you because you breathe. I hate you because you can think. I hate you because you have ideas other than my own.”
All of the overhead lights turned to a warning red and the evacuation alarm boomed, drowning out the rest of the figure’s words. The monitors cut in with a yellow circle- the universal symbol for emergency. Drake panicked. He knew the routine, had been drilled on escape procedures, but when imminent atmospheric collapse loomed all discipline deserted him.
He ran down the hall screaming and shoving others out of the way. The hysteria was infectious. Soon the entire section broke down into a free-for-all with Gen-Humans, Mutzachans, Orions, Goola-Goolas and a host of other races all pushing, kicking, tripping, and biting each other to reach the survival bubbles.
Drake had just accidentally knocked another Gen-Human down a flight of stairs when an explosion rocked his section, bowling everyone over. Then what had just been a confused struggle turned into a murderous riot. People clubbed and stabbed whoever was ahead of them. Mutzachans let loose fatal blasts of matrix energy to clear the decks. Sporadic gunfire was heard further down the section.
“Remain calm! Remain calm!” a voice yelled over the intercom.
But the toothpaste was out of the tube. Drake stumbled, his knees nearly buckling with fear, and steadied himself on a desk. He picked up an oblong paperweight and judged that it might be a good weapon. Several voices, overlapping each other, squawked through the monitors.
“Sebe engaging… electrical systems compromised, launching fighters… flux shield holding… configuration unknown, seems to be a hodgepodge of inconsistent parts…..”
Was the station under attack? No way, it had to be sabotage. This was the best defended area in the quadrant. They had three battle cruisers in rotation around it at all times. Any assault would be a suicide run. And yet…
White gas vented into the room. Definitely not part of the evacuation procedure. It was some sort of acidic mist that liquefied any flesh it alighted upon. The mist was scrubbed away in seconds by the station’s atmospheric conditioners. But the damage had been done. Jake, who had somehow gotten ahead of Drake, lurched before him, screaming. He had taken a spritz dead in the face. His eyes had melted and were running down his cheeks like giant globous tears. Large chunks of meat still clung to his face, attached by thin strands.
It was enough to make a person vomit and Drake was no exception. He heaved his stomach contents onto the floor as a further explosion shook the station. Drake knew that he had to get out of there now. He readied his paperweight and…
“Help… help me,” Jake hoarsely cried.
… paused. Damn it! He couldn’t just leave the guy. He’d known Jake his entire life (all three months of it) and he deserved better than this. Drake hoisted him up and helped him walk down the hall. Unfortunately this slowed them down greatly.
“Hold on buddy,” Drake said, “We’re almost there.”
Jake said nothing more. Most of his tongue had plopped out of his mouth and smeared down the front of his shirt, yet the jaw continued moving in a foul mimicry of human speech. Drake vomited a second time.
By the time they finally managed to make it down to the evac chamber, most of the section had already ejected. There were a few broken figures lying about, some burned, some bleeding, some trampled, but otherwise it was empty. He boarded the bubble (a device designed only to be a short term solution) and hit the large, idiot proof, eject button.
Hope you enjoyed it. Here is the Amazon Listing for a full copy.