KIN took a knee—a soldier’s pose that came naturally. Clavender stood with one hand on his shoulder. They watched the trooper and the town as a sea breeze spoke softly.
“I am glad these soldiers are from your Fleet,” Clavender said.
“You might not be if you were in my position,” Kin said.
She bent and looked into his eyes.
He waited until she smiled. Knowing she wouldn’t ask the question, he answered. “Fleet Command gave me a mission to kill every last Reaper on Hellsbreach.”
She touched his face. “But you could not do it.”
Kin looked away, surprised at his shame. She didn’t seem to judge him. She squatted, wrapping her arms and her wings around him.
“We are not different. I hide from my people so that I do not lead them to war and ruin,” Clavender said.
“I thought you were the last of your people. I mean, everyone assumed,” Kin said.
Clavender laughed. “Have you not seen the migrations toward the wormhole?”
“I thought those were birds. There must be thousands,” Kin said. He recalled the swarms of flying creatures passing far above Crater Town. The mysterious migrations were considered good luck by everyone on Crashdown.
“Not birds, but foolish young men trying to prove themselves. They will never reach it. It is too high and does not open as easily as a door,” Clavender said.
“You should go inside. The Fleet has a bad record with aliens,” Kin said.
“An odd thing, coming from aliens,” Clavender said.
“I will stay outside. Do not worry. I have hidden from my people for a long time. I can hide from yours,” she said.
Kin nodded. They stood, holding hands for what seemed like a pleasant lifetime.
The breeze shifted, bringing the smell of burned buildings mixed with the salty air. It stung Kin’s eyes. Wind wouldn’t disperse the odors until the smoldering huts cooled. Clavender probably didn’t appreciate the odors of destroyed machines, but they painted a picture for Kin, bringing back memories. He looked down on the Fleet trooper who gave up on the idea of capturing the hopper birds and stood like a statue. Kin listened for the quiet sound of gears in the assault armor.
He descended the front of the dune. The trooper turned to face him. Kin was glad the trooper was alert, even though they were destined to be adversaries. Fears of interrogation and torture seemed distant, because Clavender touched him. He laughed inwardly. He hadn’t been checking on her, he’d been seeking comfort. The Fleet would learn his identity and he would run, fight, or die. It was simple and unavoidable.
Kin Roland was a common name and he had taken many steps to hide who he was—a new identification number and plate in his arm, the meticulous and expensive removal of tattoos, and an assignment on a terra-forming mission that should’ve taken him to the very rim of Earth Fleet controlled space. But he couldn’t avoid scrutiny forever.
The false identity plate in his arm would not withstand a close, forensic examination. Someone would remember him. Orlan certainly knew him and this trooper that was so interested in him probably did as well. The question was why the trooper didn’t sound the alarm.
Kin still didn’t understand how he was able to board the Goliath in the first place. They had checked his finger prints and photograph—a moment he had dreaded but found unavoidable. Nothing. The security screener ran his picture and prints without finding a thing. Either the captain of the Goliath had known who he was and didn’t care, or the system was too big for its own good. Fleet intelligence officers, however, wouldn’t be fooled.
The trooper was shamming ignorance for reasons unfathomable to Kin. He hadn’t imagined the moment this person recognized him, but couldn’t figure why the trooper suddenly pretended ignorance.
“Let’s go to the meeting hall,” Kin said.
The trooper nodded, walking next to him.
Kin looked for Orlan, but couldn’t find him. The sergeant was uncommonly large, and since assault armor added a foot to a man or woman’s height, Orlan was seven and a half feet tall when wearing his full kit. Without armor, Orlan was thick chested, hairy, and had a face that looked as though it had once been handsome, but had been stepped on too many times. His eyes were watery and sickly, almost clear. Kin never trusted Orlan’s eyes, even before the man betrayed him. If Orlan recognized him—and he would—he wouldn’t hesitate to kill Kin.
“This isn’t the most direct path to the meeting hall,” the trooper said.
“Did your computer tell you that?” Kin asked.
“The computer is correct. Don’t you know your town?”
Kin shrugged. “I know this place like the back of my hand. I also know that if I walk down Main Street, people will see me and want to talk. It’ll take three days to get to the meeting hall.” Kin was impressed with his own bullshit. He picked his course to avoid Orlan, who would be shaking down Crater Town citizens like the thug he was.
Hellsbreach memories, ever present, rose to the surface. He took a deep breath, held it, then exhaled slowly. The urge to close his eyes was strong, almost as strong as the desire to return to his bed and sleep the day away. He never yielded to the post-traumatic stress and the melancholy that came with it.
Anxiety could give way to manic euphoria, much as it had when he realized he survived the first Reaper attack, but he didn’t know whether other veterans felt the same. He embraced the supercharged good feelings as often as he could, aware that he had probably lost his mind more than once. He scanned his environment and remained ready for anything, though the cinematic big screen in his head played continually.
Kin heard his younger voice screaming at his platoon as Reapers charged across sand and rocks. Sergeant Kin Roland, Class IV Weapons Master and unit commander, gathered his men and retreated behind a smoking row of Colossal Class Battle Tanks. The Fleet’s war machines leveled two cities before the Reaper ambush annihilated them.
Kin glanced at the unit motto stenciled on the side of an armor panel. Unstoppable HOE.
Unstoppable Hell on Earth. Tanker humor.
“First and Third squads, choose your targets. Fire at will.”
How do animals without heavy weapons destroy a CCBT column?
Burns tattooed broken hatches. Metal rods jutted from multiple barrels of each tank. Segmented wheel treads stretched across the ground—dead metallic snakes—sad, lost, and betrayed.
“Second and Fourth squads, hold right and left flanks.”
Hundreds of deadly humanoids charged Kin’s unit, armed with fists of lightning that they could throw a hundred meters and swords wreathed in fire. He had never seen Reapers like this. They reminded him of shock troops, aggressive and well-armed. Their leader carried a whip that cut burning arcs in the air, splashing acid in all directions. Weapons were a new development for Reapers but their fearsome ingenuity unnerved Kin.
The Reapers roared, voices full of clicks and scraping sounds.
“Double perimeter,” he ordered.
His best troopers moved to fire large caliber rifles and plasma guns, using the damaged tanks as cover. Some climbed on the twisted metal turrets for better advantage. They opened fire. Scores of enemies went down. Few stayed down.
“Fall back,” Kin ordered.
The outer line of soldiers ran for cover while the second team opened fire to protect them as they hustled toward new positions. Kin’s unit was being pushed back as far as they could go without fleeing into the desert. No cover or concealment existed beyond the Tanks. The Reapers would drive them beyond any source of water or refuge. One step into the sandy waste was a death sentence.
His unit fired weapons, but started edging back. They were good soldiers, but every one of them had seen how the Reapers fought. They didn’t kill in battle. That came afterward, when there was time for torture. The beasts liked to eat living meat.
“Stand fast! Hold your ground!” he yelled, when his men looked like they were about to break. “Hand to hand. Weapons up.”
Kin led the way with a sharp bayonet. He fired, charging into the wave of Reapers, never pausing to reload. The fight was close, bloody work, and he received more injuries through his armor than he could count. The rifle was torn from his hands. Without hesitation, he drew his sword—a weapon his superiors didn’t approve of—and thrust it through the mouth of a Reaper.
One of the psychotic beasts fell away from his attack after losing its hands. Another lost its head. The third refused to die even though the sword ran through its body. When he couldn’t free the blade, he abandoned it, hacking with the axe he pulled from the back of his armor. He didn’t see his unit through the enemies surrounding him, but had little time to search for them with Reapers slashing with claws and flaming weapons.
Just keep killing. Take care of business. Regroup later. But Kin knew there would be no time to regroup. Too many. I’m sorry, Becca, there are too many.
Mental images tormented him. He couldn’t understand the visions he saw, but felt each thought as a physical pressure in his brain. When he could no longer lift the axe or remain standing, he fell to his knees. Reapers pounced on him. He suddenly understood why he couldn’t see his unit. They had fled—every one of them.
Changed by captivity and torture, hunted by the Reapers of Hellsbreach and wanted by Earth Fleet, Kin Roland hides on a lost planet near an unstable wormhole.
When a distant space battle propels a ravaged Earth Fleet Armada through the same wormhole, a Reaper follows, hunting for the man who burned his home world. Kin fights to save a mysterious native of Crashdown from the Reaper and learns there are worse things in the galaxy than the nightmare hunting him. The end is coming and he is about to pay for a sin that will change the galaxy forever.
Enemy of Man: Book One in the Chronicles of Kin Roland was written for fans of military science fiction and science fiction adventure. Readers who enjoyed Starship Troopers or Space Marines will appreciate this genre variation. Powered armor only gets a soldier so far. Battlefield experience, guts, and loyal friends make Armageddon fun.
If you love movies like Aliens, Predator, The Chronicles of Riddick, or Serenity, then you might find the heroes and creatures in Enemy of Man dangerous, determined, and ready to risk it all. It’s all about action and suspense, with a dash of romance—or perhaps flash romance.
From the Author
Thanks for your interest in my novel, Enemy of Man. I hope you chose to read the book and enjoy every page.
If you have already read Enemy of Man, how was it? Reviews are appreciated!
Have a great day and be safe.
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Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – R
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