The Plague of Pyridian (The Other Worlds Book Two)

By S.K. Holder

Action & adventure, Young adult, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Paperback, eBook

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338
5 mins

CHAPTER ONE

Lin launched herself down the rock face. Leaping the last two feet, she unsheathed her dagger, lunged at the alien and ran the coarse blade down its back. She immobilised another before it descended on her by pinning a flap of its skin into the dirt, and then hacking off its head. It gave a shriek of indignation and a grey mucous bubbled from its mouth.

That’s what you get for killing aliens: no respite and little reward.

She whirled in the direction of the screams. They came from a young woman dressed in civilian clothing. Caught in the grip of the alien’s tentacle, she looked a bloody, fleshy mess.

Lin clambered back up the precipice and over to where she lay writhing, drew her Ryber weapon from its holster and thrust it into the creature’s tentacle. The alien screeched and its tentacle went slack. She gripped the civilian by the waist and attempted to haul her back to her feet. The woman screamed and slammed her arm into Lin’s legs. She howled in pain as Lin’s spiked armour pierced her skin.

‘Get up. Get up you fool!’ Lin yelled at her. ‘Can’t you see I’m trying to help you?’ It became clear that the woman could not. Her eyes were closed; one had a purple bruise. Her clothes were spattered with blood. She had a bloody lip, half of her lustrous hair looked as if it had been ripped out at the root and she had a deep gash in her leg.

Her hand jerked towards the lifeless limb. ‘I can’t feel my leg.’

Lin slapped the civilian’s arm away and shook her by the shoulders. ‘You need to stand. Try!’ Did the woman not grasp the urgency of the situation?

And what was she doing out here anyway, without combat gear and without courage? She suspected she was another halfwit who thought they would try their luck at hunting aliens.

‘My leg,’ she screamed. ‘Help me. My leg!’

Lin released her hold on the civilian and told her the truth. ‘Your leg is the least of your worries.’

The woman flopped on her side and made a feeble attempt to crawl away. She cut a pathetic figure, squirming and clawing at the dry rock bed with her bruised fingers and her eyes shut.

Another alien closed in and Lin drew her Ryber weapon again. She hit the protractor key on the alloy steel device, extending it by seven foot. She took a firm grip on the Ryber and raised her right knee to her chest. She ran with mighty force, using her raised leg to drive herself through the air. She vaulted over the alien and rammed her blade into the top of its head before it had seen her.

The creature crashed to the ground, emitting a rattling sound before disintegrating in a cloud of ash. The Ryber contracted in Lin’s hand. She then slapped it to the magnetic strip on her belt.

The civilian had witnessed Lin’s kill. She started to scream again. She squirmed dangerously close to the edge of the rock face on which they were situated. Sighing, Lin resigned herself to mounting a rescue before she tumbled off the ledge or into an alien’s open mouth.

Grunting with effort, she dragged the civilian away from the precarious edge by her feet. She then knocked her out with the handle of her blade. She parted the civilian’s hair on one side in search of the tattoos that were the Peltarcks hallmark. She was not surprised to find no sign of them. She did not bother to check the palm of the woman’s right hand. If she were a Citizen her Mark had failed her as her wounds had not healed.

She heard the whir of a fleet carrier above her and saw it in the distance banking south. The fork-shaped carrier flew low on approach.

Massaging the knots in her shoulders, she watched it land close to the mottled blue corpse of the eighth alien she had killed that day. She thought she heard two more carriers drawing in from the west. They sounded close. She shifted her gaze west where a band of white light dripped over the horizon and a single star sat over the steep ridge tracks of Baya Mountain. Lin could have sworn she saw the mountain quake. Baya Mountain does not quake she told herself. It had been a long day and her eyes were tired. She closed them for a moment and caught her breath. When she opened them, the quaking had stopped and so had the sound of the carriers.

Lintheia Aroda had done a great deal of killing in her eighteen years. Too much, she thought. In her infancy, she had killed alien hatchlings. As she grew older, she moved on to the bigger ones. She had once killed an alien with her bare hands.

She had joined the Citizen Taskforce at thirteen years of age. The Taskforce had many guises and many names. On Narrigh, it was the Shardner’s Special Army, on Kaltharine it was the Military Academy, and on Pyridian it was the Octane Resistance. They all had one thing in common: they were all led by a Citizen, and their chief aim was to resolve war and conflict by any means necessary. Or so one would think. For while Odisiris had peace, it was a well-known, yet unspoken fact that all the other worlds occupied by Citizens were plagued by wars and unrest. Lin did not have the heart to read into it. She was a warrior born and raised. She spent most of her time on the battlefield. And while she had the utmost respect for the superhuman race of Citizens, her loyalties lay with her own race: the Peltarcks.

A laser gun went off, blowing the head off one of the alien’s she had taken out earlier. Given the chance, she would have finished the beast off herself.

‘You’re slacking,’ said a voice over her shoulder.

She waited for the cloud of rock dust to settle around her, and then turned to address her commanding officer, Garis Kyson. His eyes were the colour of algae and his white hair made him look older than his thirty-eight years. ‘I don’t think so sir. It was half dead when I found it.’

She held the First Status Citizen in high regard. As her commanding officer he reminded her when to step up and when to step down. Nonetheless, he spent more time above the battlefield than on it, and as a consequence had no idea how many aliens she had killed that morning or the day before.

His eyes lingered for a moment on the unconscious figure lying on the rocks. He jammed the laser gun into his leg holster and met her gaze. ‘You missed cadet training yesterday.’

Lin scowled. ‘I had other business to attend to.’ She disliked teaching anyone and had not given the cadet training any thought. Most of the new recruits were Citizen youths. Eager to take up the family mantel, they joined the fleet with little notion of what awaited outside their city walls until it was too late.

Garis ran his thumb under his chin, watching her thoughtfully. ‘Other business?’

‘Killing things.’ Lin threw her Ryber weapon into the open jaw of the alien looming up behind Garis, the one he thought he had killed. The alien gave a long screech and drew itself up before crashing to the ground. Garis hopped forward with wide eyes, and then spun round to survey the alien’s corpse.

‘What was it you said about slacking?’ she asked.

His cheeks coloured and he fixed her with a glare. ‘I was saving it for you.’
‘I’m sure you were.’ Eager to retrieve her blade, she strode over to the alien’s carcass and prised open its mouth.

‘You haven’t been the same since Narrigh. Did something happen?’

‘You’ve been talking to my father.’ Her father had conveyed his concern about her well-being in front of the entire family. The recollection of it made her cringe. He had wanted to counsel her regarding her feelings for Thorn. Her father had said she had not stopped speaking of him since she returned home. He didn’t know she had used Thorn’s name in place of another. In the past she had spoken of Thorn with such venom it was no wonder her father thought that he was the cause of her brooding moods. ‘Take no notice of him. I’m fine. And as to your question. Yes, something did happen. It always does. That’s why I went.’

‘You seem less focused.’

‘I’m always focused.’ Holding her breath against the stench, she stuck her hand into the creature’s mouth and felt for the handle of her dagger. She tugged it from the alien’s porous tongue with effort. She plucked up a rock slate from the ground and used it to wipe the gore from the blade. Then sheathing her weapon, she made her way over to the groaning civilian, who was slowly regaining consciousness. She knelt over her.

In a short time Garis had joined her. His arms folded, he circled Lin, keeping a look out for more alien scavengers. ‘I thought she was dead.’

‘I had to knock her out. She was hysterical.’

He spared the civilian a swift glance. ‘Where’s she from?’

‘Not this world. Her screams were too raw. Peltarcks know that screaming won’t help them.’ She examined the woman’s right hand out of protocol more than anything. ‘No sign of a mark and her wounds aren’t healing.’

There were no pockets in the civilian’s shirt or trousers for Lin to rifle through. The woman had a blue ribbon around her neck. Lin lifted it free. Suspended from it was an identity card made from an unfamiliar material. The civilian at her feet matched the one in the photo: a woman in her late twenties dressed in an unappealing grey and white striped blouse with dark brown hair and a mole-speckled face.

Garis read the identity card from over her shoulder. ‘Beth Crosswell. Senior Level Designer. Tridan Entertainment.’

‘I’ve never heard of Tridan Entertainment. You?’

‘No. We’ll take her into custody. And when she wakes, she can tell us.’

At that moment, Beth Crosswell’s eyes popped open. She took one look at Lin crouching over her and screamed.



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