Title: Epitaph: Reveille
Author: Victor Nieves
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
In year 2343, the galaxy receives a deadly wake-up call…
Nearly three-hundred years have passed since humanity ascended to the stars, joining with a conglomeration of alien races all living under the rule of a single, united community – the United Galactic Coalition – a joint, multi-species alliance that upholds the principles of democracy, freedom, and equality for all races.
The Milky Way Galaxy’s future looks bright …
Until a research team uncovers a mysterious crystal buried deep beneath the surface of a frontier world on the edge of settled space. This discovery proves to be the catalyst for an invasion from an unknown alien force that is just as ruthless as they are mysterious.
As the races of the galaxy are catapulted into a vicious fight for their very survival, fate hastily throws together a legendary admiral with a dark past, a brilliant scientist with precious little time to find the answers, an elite Special Forces Operative who must come to terms with a past failure, a spunky young military officer for whom this war is a baptism by fire, and a top notch Marine who will discover a truth that will define him as a hero.
These five men and women hold not only the keys to their own survival, but the survival of their entire civilization. With the clock ticking, the race to uncover the truth begins. As they try to fend off this cruel and merciless alien
foe, this handful of soldiers must discover what secrets this crystal could hold that would be worth the destruction of all life in the galaxy. But the question is …
… Can they do it in time?
0100 hours, August 13, 2314
Omicron Roh System, planet Solomon
Kronus Experimental Weapons Development Lab
A Shadow slid out of the shaft and dropped soundlessly into the fourth floor elevator. He tapped a button on the holographic wall panel and the doors parted at the seams.
Kileeus Scales swept the corridor with his assault rifle.
With a slight flick of his cobalt eyes, his mind integrated with his armor’s neural hardware and a holographic schematic of the lab snapped up in the right corner of the inside of his helmet’s visor. He reviewed it quickly—his destination was one floor down. There were three ways he could go:
Stairs—too risky, far too much of a chance of being spotted.
Elevator—too loud, not enough cover, too exposed.
He sprinted down the corridor. When he reached the vent, his rock-solid arm muscles afforded him the strength to wrench the covering clean off the wall. His motion tracker blipped once—a proximity alert. Four targets were approaching his position.
He’d need to move fast before he was spotted.
He slipped into the duct and out of the hallway just as quietly as he’d come in.
Scales dropped a full eight meters down the duct and landed in another shaft, crouched on one knee. With a single fluid motion, he brought his MAR-4 to bear, shouldered it with one finger a mere twitch away from the trigger.
He glanced at his motion tracker—no contacts.
Time to move.
Scales scooted along the narrow shaft in a crouch for a dozen meters until he saw rays of light cutting across his path. To his right, another grating covered his exit.
He slid a fiber optic probe through the bars, and watched the video feedback via his HUD’s small screen. He twisted it one hundred eighty degrees, taking in the whole room.
Floor to ceiling shelves were laden with food and other provisions. Two huge tanks against the far wall held thousands of gallons of fresh water. Large boxes and crates were stacked high.
There were too many places for an enemy to hide, but this was the Rendezvous Zone, so he’d have to risk it.
If all had gone according to plan, his partner would be waiting for him here.
He rewound the probe and tucked it into his armor’s storage compartment. Scales firmly braced himself and knocked the vent cover free with a powerful kick. It went flying across the room and clattered against the wall.
Scales moved in and swept the room with his MAR.
He switched his visor’s imaging to thermal.
No heat signatures registered.
Satisfied, he eased his grip on his MAR and clicked his com mic twice—the Shadow signal for “all clear.”
He waited for a response.
Then it came: two clicks, a dash, then two more clicks—the counter response.
He caught movement in his peripheral vision and spun around to face it, weapon at the ready.
A being emerged from behind the water tanks.
It was his partner, a fellow Shadow.
“And I thought you’d never get here,” Aaragon said with a chastising yet playful snort. “But just as well, it’s nice to see you.”
He gave a deep, respectful bow in the manner of the Vakari Shirum.
Scales answered with a bow of his own. “Likewise, Nakolus. Did you find us a shortcut?”
Aaragon jerked his head in the direction of the water tanks. Scales followed. Behind the tanks, a vent covering was bolted over another shaft. This one, however, was twice as thick as the others. It would take more than a few good kicks to loosen, so Scales had a better idea.
“We follow this for fifty meters,” Aaragon said as he crouched down to inspect the grate. “It’ll take us to the labs. A straight shot.”
Scales tapped a small device on his vambrace. Out of a miniature wrist-mounted diode, a needle-fine red beam shot forth. He guided the laser around the covering’s rim, cutting through the steel bolts like they were paper. When he was finished he clicked it off and grabbed the vent. The weakened steel pulled free with almost no effort.
Aaragon knelt and pointed his MAR at the storeroom’s entrance.
“Go,” he said. “I’ve got your six.”
Scales slung his assault rifle and dropped prone. When he’d crawled fifteen meters down the shaft, he heard a slight scraping sound through his helmet’s enhanced audio suite—Aaragon crept in behind him.
They crept through the dusty, grimy aluminum chute—slowly, cautiously, for several minutes.
When Scales reached the end, he peered through the bars of the vent cover and found himself looking down at the labs, twelve meters below.
Scales snaked the fiber optic probe through to check for any contacts. There was no one there. At least, no one he could see. He carefully removed the grating as quietly as he could and dropped down out of the shaft. Aaragon followed close behind. They sprinted silently across the tiled floor and came to a halt before a large titanium bulkhead.
Scales took position right, Aaragon left.
The B labs lay through the doorway. Their target, a human scientist spearheading the development of a new weapon for the Rebels, would be inside those labs.
Their mission was to sneak into the facility, eliminate their target, plant an explosive charge, quietly ex-filtrate, and then blow the place once they’d gotten clear.
The door before them was locked, sealed tight, but Aaragon was on it.
“Give me a moment.” He typed in a few commands on the keypad, hacked the security codes via his TACTICOM pad, and the door slid open.
Scales went through first and took cover behind a bank of computer mainframes. He peered over the top and saw their target standing over a table with his back to them. The man was rapidly typing away at a terminal, completely unaware of the two assassins mere meters away.
“Target sighted,” Scales said over the coms to Aaragon. His partner slunk through the door and expertly melted into the shadows.
“I’ve got our exit,” Aaragon replied. “Doorway, far corner. It leads right outside.”
“Acknowledged,” Scales said. “Set the timer on the bomb for three minutes. Mark.”
Scales took a steadying breath. He lined up the scientist in the sights of his MAR, and squeezed the trigger.
A single round hit the man square in the back, severing his spine. He slumped over the console and fell to the floor. Blood pooled around his body.
“Target eliminated,” Scales said. “Let’s get out of here.”
There was a hiss of air, the screeching of un-oiled gears, and suddenly, a door opened across the lab.
In walked six scientists. It took them a moment to take it in, but when they saw the body of their comrade, they froze in horror.
“Shit,” Scales muttered under his breath.
One of them broke rank and bolted for the alarm.
She pulled it just as Scales sighted down. He squeezed the trigger, and a three-round burst caught the woman between her shoulders. Blood spattered the wall.
But it was done. The alarm wailed, and their cover was blown.
“Bomb set,” Aaragon said over the coms.
Scales put the rest of the scientists down with a sustained stream of gunfire right as Aaragon said, “Scales, I’m reading contacts headed this way. A dozen guards. We need to move. Now.”
Scales stood up and sprinted for the exit. Aaragon was already hacking the security override when Scales approached.
“There,” he said as the door opened. “Got it. Let’s get—”
A sharp crackle of thunder resonated through the labs.
A high-caliber bullet hit Aaragon in the back. He crumpled to the ground.
“Nakolus!” Scales yelled.
He turned around in time to see a dozen guards burst into the lab with rifles blazing. Bullets zipped over his head as he threw himself prone and crawled for cover behind a row of computer consoles. On his HUD, Aaragon’s bio signs flatlined.
Scales closed his eyes and cursed himself in his native tongue.
The timer readout from the bomb read 1:42.
Scales knew he had to make a run for it, out of the door Aaragon had given his life to open and into the snow covered fields to the pick-up point.
He steeled himself, stole one last glance at his fallen partner, and primed two smoke grenades. He lobbed them over the top of the console. In the few brief moments of confusion, the hail of bullets faltered. Scales arose and sprinted for the exit.
He’d made it across the field and into a forest of evergreens just as the timer ticked down to zero. The earth trembled. There was a deafening clash of thunder, and smoke roiled up high into the sky.
Scales didn’t turn around. He kept on running through the forest. He knew he’d never be able to leave Aaragon’s body behind if he looked back.
When he reached a grove four kilometers from the facility, he stopped. Panting, he flipped on the small homing beacon sheathed in his belt. All that was left was to wait for pickup. He melted into cover to avoid detection in case the Rebels had sent out a search party.
As a Shadow, it was his duty to complete any mission, no matter the cost.
Although this time, the cost had been his Shirum, his bond-brother.
First of all, I would like to start out by saying that I would like to abide by my policies to never reveal spoilers that might ruin the reading experience for others so I will only reveal my thoughts on the actual story.
Sci-fi really isn’t my cup of tea, but when I read the brief synopsis I was instantly intrigued by what appeared to be a very promising storyline. I’m glad I wasn’t disappointed!
While I had to resort to peeking at the glossary at the back of the book every now and again to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding any alien race, etc, it didn’t take away from the allure of the plot.
The author did a great job at painted a vast picture with words alone, creating a world so easy to accept and come to terms with. I loved how, at times, I felt as if I was living in the story and not just reading a book. It’s fast paced and credible. Intriguing and creative.
I’m definitely looking forward to more from this author. And yes, thanks to Victor Nieves I’m a little more inclined to giving sci-fi yet another try.
Victor Nieves lives in West Virginia. He enjoys writing, reading, and is a huge horror movie fan, zombies in particular. At the young age of twenty-one, he found a way to communicate his ideas and imagination with others through writing, which he plans on doing for the rest of his life.
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