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It’s the end of all life on earth unless a compromise can be found.
Time is running short and it is left to an aging military commander to bring together the remaining nations of the world to construct an ambitious space platform that can serve as the portal to the stars.
Can people set aside their differences to save themselves, or will the last breath be drawn by those still alive? Will the flame of humanity flicker out as other species have before them?
The United Earth Council is founded in the hope that a common threat will make world leaders work together for a solution, but the lust for power may override the fight for survival. Will the attempts of this newly formed organization achieve their goal?
Or are these efforts a futile act of Desperation?
Read Chapter One
An Omen of Things to Come
September 9, 2371 – The outer limits of the known galaxy, near Pluto
The ship shook so violently that the crew was thrown about the cabin like rag dolls. Several men and women lay scattered across the flight deck, some unconscious, others woozy and bleeding. The captain, a middle-aged Englishman by the name of Steven Richards, lifted his aching head and touched his scalp gingerly. When he pulled his fingers away there was blood on them.
“Is everyone all right? Report, please.” In the background, numerous alarms were blaring. The lighting on the bridge flickered on and off, as if there were a short in the circuits. The pungent scent of burnt wiring was thick in the air.
A barely discernible groan rose from somewhere nearby, the tone of which appeared feminine. “I think my arm is broken, sir.”
“Ms. Ainsworth, is that you?”
“Aye, sir,” the woman replied, grimacing in agony.
“What the hell just happened? Did we hit something?” Captain Richards’ inquiry slurred slightly as he struggled to remain conscious, his vision fading in and out of focus. He attempted to rise, but couldn’t even manage to sit up. Instead, he settled for scooting across the floor, using his hands to pull himself closer to his navigations officer and leaving bloody smears on the carpeting in his wake.
“I don’t—” Something sizzled and popped nearby, causing Ms. Ainsworth to flinch and interrupting her train of thought for a moment.
The captain grunted as he pulled himself closer to her position. “You don’t what?”
“I don’t think so,” she managed, through clenched teeth. “My readouts didn’t show any obstructions in our flight path.”
A groan rose from somewhere near the woman, but the captain’s view was obstructed by the thick smoke in the cabin. In the sections of the cockpit that were visible, the crew appeared to be either dead or unmoving. A brief flash of intensely bright light permeated the haze for a split second, causing him to shield his eyes. He had no idea what had caused the anomaly, but hoped it wasn’t a sign that one of the ship’s systems had gone critical and was about to explode. Captain Richards was on the verge of calling out to his ship mates again when he heard a heavy clomp, which resonated on the floor like a footfall. Fear permeated his very soul as the owner of the weighted step moved into view.
The creature stopped a few feet away from the captain, and gazed down at the broken man from a pair of golden eyes set in its reptilian head. The being opened its mouth as if to speak, its long, forked tongue flicking the air between them. “Why has your kind come here?” the creature hissed.
Captain Richards remained quiet for a moment, partly in shock that he could understand the alien’s language. Surely it wasn’t speaking the native tongue of Earth. “Um,” he began, fumbling for a response. “We mean you no harm,” he finally managed. “We are merely exploring the galaxy.”
“If what you say holds any truth, turn your vessel around and leave this place,” the alien commanded. “Ignoring this warning will be considered an act of aggression, and will result in dire consequences for your species.”
The captain opened his mouth to reply, but was distracted by movement coming from behind the visitor. It took his eyes a few seconds to register what he was seeing. He squinted harder in an attempt to discover who or what was moving toward the alien. In the same instant the captain figured out it was his helmsman, Mr. Boothe, holding what appeared to be a section of pipe in his hand menacingly, the creature sensed something was amiss and spun around to face the threat.
“Mr. Boothe, stand down!” The captain’s order came a moment too late. By the time the final word left his lips, the towering reptilian figure had disarmed the man and disemboweled him. His intestines spilled from his abdomen and hit the floor with a wet splat, seconds before the rest of his body collapsed. From behind the captain, Ms. Ainsworth screamed in horror.
“It seems your crew has given me the answer you could not bring yourself to voice,” the reptilian creature remarked with a malicious sneer. “Let this serve as a lesson to your species. This hostile intent will not be tolerated. Your race will suffer our wrath for as long as it continues to exist!”
“You intend to condemn the entire human race because one man misjudged a single situation?” The captain’s shock and fear was quickly being replaced by an almost unquenchable thirst for vengeance. Before he could act on his rage, however, one bright flash of light after another seared his retinas. Although he was still extremely angry, he started to get the feeling that more of the reptilian creatures had just boarded his ship. If there’d been one for every pulse, it seemed likely that an additional dozen of the aliens were now in the cabin. Even if every member of his crew was conscious and able to fight the intruders, they would still be outnumbered! When the flashes ceased and his eyes readjusted to the smoky gloom of the cockpit, however, the captain discovered he was alone. Even the formidable alien that had gutted Mr. Boothe had left.
Captain Richards struggled to hold back tears of grief. This was far from what he’d expected when he had agreed to travel to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. There hadn’t been any warnings from the British government about the possibility of encountering hostile races, only the lofty ideals of saving the citizens of Earth from their shortsightedness and giving them a chance to start anew on another planet, or at the very least find an energy source that would allow humans to continue living on the fractured sphere they called home. None of these things seemed possible anymore. His mission had failed, and Earth would pay the price for his miscalculations.
The hissing of an alien voice startled Captain Richards out of his misery. “I would never have expected such puny beings to taste so sweet, but my comrades found the flesh of your kind pleasing to their palates. Your crew should serve well to sate our appetites on the journey to your homeworld, which we retrieved from your ship’s instruments before we returned to our vessel.” The mere thought of the aliens using his ship mates for food caused the captain to vomit. The communication channel had gone silent, but the sound which replaced it was almost blissful.
Alarms renewed their incessant blats and beeps. The vessel began to shake and shudder as it had a short while ago, when he’d thought they had run into something. Captain Richards gasped for breath when the first fissure in the hull appeared, but it was pointless. In a matter of moments, there would no longer be a ship, or air to fill his screaming lungs. Tense seconds dragged by, making it seem like an eternity before the spaceship exploded. Then, there was nothing … his consciousness faded into oblivion and gory bits of the captain floated off to be amongst the stars.
Lucian began his writing career late in 2010, but has spent most of his life writing stories. He is a fantasy/horror novelist whose first published works were released in 2012. Because this cause hits close to home for Lucian, the fifth book in the Desolace Series, Cemetery Hill, will have a portion of its sales donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. His next book, Desperation, will be the first in a new series … Altar of the Ancients. It should be available in early 2018. Lucian lives in Pueblo, Colorado.
For more about Lucian Barnes and the Desolace series:
also on Twitter @LucianBarnes