From then on, Captain Jamie Hawkins on his ship, the Indefatigable, fought in ship-to-ship and fleet actions against the government–only to discover that something insidious was behind the war–a mysterious alien presence with a original twist.
The black of night had fallen, but Jamie Hawkins couldn’t sleep. Though the surgeons had patched up his many wounds, the remorseless pain persisted, even now, months after his medical discharge from the Marines.
BAM! BAM! BAM!
Despite his desire to ignore the unwelcomed thundering blows, he answered the door to his country home and found his neighbor, tall scrawny seventeen year old Joshua Morgan, gasping for breath.
“Captain Hawkins, come quick! Come quick, or they’ll all be killed!”
“Who? What are you talking about, Joshua?”
“I’ve just come from the city—it’s a war zone. People are dying,” Joshua’s voice broke. “The hospital is taking care of the wounded and sheltering women and children, but its force shield is buckling.” He finished in a breathless rush, “It’s only a matter of minutes before it fails.”
A troubled frown creased Hawkins’s face. Their mothers had been friends and he had known Joshua since he was born.
Has the boy been drawn into the turmoil? He wondered.
Hawkins had listened to the broadcasts throughout the day, absurd in every detail; demonstrators declared that they were only protesting injustice, while the government insisted the violence was a last resort against rebels.
Which is the greater lie?
“I told one of the doctors, I knew someone who could help. My flyer’s right outside, sir. You must come,” begged Joshua, his expressive eyes pleading.
A more kindhearted man, who possessed his insight, might have agonized over what was happening in the capital city, but though Hawkins was not unsympathetic, past adversity had left him more hardboiled and cynical than most.
“That’s not my concern anymore,” he said.
Joshua’s desperate voice squealed, “You’re a veteran. You could make a difference, sir.”
Hawkins put his hand on his hips, threw his head back, and barked, “Ha!”
Then, giving vent to a deep inner passion, he demanded, “What difference can one man make?”
As a Marine, Hawkins had been a hot-blooded warrior, always quick to action, so at this moment of great upheaval, while frenzied violence was playing out in the capital, he surprised himself with his reluctance to act. As he ran his hand over the long jagged scar that marred his chest, one thing was certain, the foolish mutinous passions of the people could only lead to ruin.
But the look that spread across the boy’s face was indescribable—it was as if he had just lost his hero.
“Alright, if you won’t come, at least tell me how to maintain the shield,” said Joshua, showing a daring and persistence beyond his years. “I’ll go back alone, but you must tell me what to do.”
“You have no idea what you’d be getting yourself into. All hell has broken loose. Can’t you see, you can’t contribute anything worthwhile, and most likely something terrible will happen?”
“I must go back, my mother is a volunteer at the hospital,” said Joshua. Throwing back his shoulders with a determined jerk of his chin, he challenged Hawkins’s jaded gaze, pleading, “Please. Tell me how to fix the shield.”
Hawkins opened his mouth, but the words froze on his lips. The boy’s courage was a splash of cold water in his face, stinging his sense of honor. It wasn’t in his nature to send this boy to certain death—for Joshua could never accomplish what had to be done—nor it was in his makeup to let innocents be condemned to death with the hospital’s destruction.
A gritty resolve washed over Hawkins. He said, “Let’s go.”
Wearing a brown pilot jacket, tanned rawhide trousers with knee-high leather boots, calfskin gloves, and goggles, Hawkins skillfully maneuvered the single seat flyer at breakneck speed. Joshua desperately clung to him to stay on the back of the motorcycle-like vehicle–his arms wrapped tightly around Hawkins’s waist.
What they saw was a madhouse–Newport was ablaze with savage fires that lit up the horizon–scores of them. Just hours before it had been a vibrant city, the capital of Jaxon, renowned for its culture and history, thriving with business and commerce, home to over a million inhabitants going about their ordinary daily lives, now it was a battlefield.
Though his home was a mere two dozen kilometers outside the city, it was impossible for him to fly directly there. There were several sharp mountain peaks in their way, one tremendous one, flanked by two smaller ones, causing Hawkins to race the engine of single-seat turbojet to gain altitude. The noise and vibration of the straining sputtering engine roared into the dark rainy night until they were able to ascend to three thousand meters.
When they reached the outskirts of the city, they descended to a hundred meters, but skyscrapers rose in their path causing them to fly directly over a paved highway that connected the planet’s capital to the suburbs. It was swollen with traffic–pedestrians, motorcycles, trucks and cars–choking the road. There were people of every description; disheveled housewives and construction workers, unskilled laborers and local tradesmen, reeking hobos and sharply dressed businessmen, young and old, men and women alike, all seeking safety. Some carried cherished possessions while others brandished antiquated bullet guns, since the government had already confiscated most laser and plasma weapons. This crowded mass of human unhappiness snaked its way along its ill-chosen path intent on escaping the terrifying violence.
Is Joshua’s mom in that mob? Hawkins wondered.
Those remaining in the city suffered under a shower of high explosive aerial bombs intermixed with artillery shells. With sirens wailing, Hawkins saw bombers overhead dropping death from the skies and heard the repeated firing of artillery in the distance. He couldn’t tell who was doing the shooting.
After his initial reluctance to come, he agonized over whether he would arrive in time. A nearly impenetrable wall of smoke, flame, debris, and explosions added extra heart wrenching minutes to the journey.
Every two minutes a new wave of jets would be overhead and a new barrage of artillery shells would join in. The roaring fires pulsed, like the blind fury of an agitated buzzing beehive. Little fires grew into big ones, right before his eyes. Big ones died down under the valor of firemen, only to break out again a few moments later.
Hawkins saw the panic in the street. The city’s civil-defense included shelters that were now overflowing with refugees. Many had left their homes and defied the flames to run to the bomb shelters distributed throughout the city, only to find there was no room for them. In addition to the death and injury, everywhere there was evidence of psychological trauma–children sat in rubble–their dead parent’s bodies nearby. It was impossible to gauge how much more the citizens could take. Panic and raw nerves grew tighter with each passing minute. The people prayed for a respite–but there was little hope for mercy on this night.
Hawkins heard the crackling of the closest flames and the screams of victims and firemen, alike. Smoke blurred his vision and seared his lungs. Nevertheless, he kept going with Joshua clinging to his waist.
“Arf! Arf!” choked Joshua.
“Here cover your mouth with this handkerchief,” yelled Hawkins over the uproar around them.
The sirens wailed.
“Oh, no,” said Joshua. “Are we too late?”
“We’re almost there,” said Hawkins.
They heard detonations high in the air. The sky was alive with a deadly dance of destruction.
Farther down the street, Hawkins could see soldiers breaking through the defensive ring of some diehard demonstrators, sending them fleeing in every direction. He couldn’t quite make out what the people were yelling, but he could see one oversized banner fall to the ground.
It read, “Beware the Wrath to Come!”