And here’s Chapter 40: Trajectory.
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The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Oh no! It’s coming our way!
Pressure turned into incredible heat, then it popped. Everything rushed out and up and through, into the cold air, beyond it and into the silent darkness on the edge of the stars. There was peace momentarily in the company of the Moon, who hung in endless shadows like a gleaming sickle blade.
Jack spun slowly and felt the sun’s warmth trace a circle around his body while the blue planet beneath him spun as well. The land raced by like a desktop globe suspended just beyond his reach, covered in a vast and gentle sea speckled with islands.
Then the globe began to swell. The Earth grew closer and closer, becoming ever larger and more detailed as he approached.
Jack’s hollow-drive kicked to life and gravity bent around his skin. He twisted in mid-air, placed his feet out in front of him, and braced for impact.
He crashed across a kilometer of dense jungle, tearing through trees and mounds of dirt before scraping a deep gash out of the landscape. When he finally ground to a stop, stones and soil rained down all around him, bouncing harmlessly off his dense shell. He pushed himself free of the crater and smoothly melted into a sprint, jetting out across now familiar territory.
It seemed that anything was possible. The feeling of absolute freedom was astonishing, and he made his progress with the simple joy of a child skipping through a playground.
But it didn’t take long to find his way into combat, which once again hardened his heart. Flying Yuon Kwon tangled with strange human jets that folded and reconfigured into new shapes, while the ground below was a roaring conflagration. Rhinos and jackrabbits clashed against tanks and ten-meter-high men made of metal, both sides backed by long batteries of coughing artillery.
He moved so quickly that neither New Union nor Oikeya paid him any mind. He was a transitory blur that shot passed and disappeared into the jungle, while more immediate threats pressed ever onward.
The fighting intensified as Jack neared the site, and the cover faded away leaving only live combatants, discarded corpses, and cracked patches of the brutally beaten ground. He slowed out of necessity, jumping up and over combat in great arcs, and spinning away from the occasional cracking rifle or thumping cannon.
He felt untouchable.
A heavy shell rocked Jack’s chest, splashing molten metal across his tiled skin. He tumbled end over end along the ground and barreled through an entrenched group of rhinos.
“Pardon me,” he said in the alien language. He hopped to his feet and took off circling the battlefield.
His vision grew brighter while the color seemed to sap away, leaving a dull and bluish reality with unusually crisp separation. The distance between objects was accentuated, and he thought he could feel their motion.
The cold blue became sharp and vibrant at the mouths of guns, and dimmer shades twinkled under every stomping foot. He immediately understood that the hollow-drive could perceive energy, could taste it across the air.
He caught sight of his enemy. It was a two-story machine running deftly across the backfield, shaped like a man made of airplane parts. Its right arm was a cannon barrel filled with magnificent light.
The jetman’s head tracked Jack and it raised its arm. It fired a series of blasts with mechanical precision, and they left glowing tracers across his vision.
He dashed out sideways to get clear, but the shells followed along, then slammed into him one after another. Pain crackled along his muscles and bones as he sailed backward from the impact.
He hit the ground, looked down at his chest, and saw a hole punctured through the armor which revealed torn meat made of glittering fibers. The edges wriggled and squirmed, stretching out to reconnect and rebuild.
With his other arm, he dragged himself back, flipped up and vaulted over the small rise, landing safely in cover behind it. He could already feel strength and structure coming back to the damaged shoulder, but it was thinner and more threadbare. It would be seconds yet before he neared full strength again.
He peeked up over the mound and saw the jetman approaching, bundles of hulking muscles glowing like the inside of a kiln. It raised its cannon again and fired, and Jack ducked down just in time to keep his head in one piece.
His shoulder flashed with readiness.
Jack hopped to his knees, charged his red hand and brought it down into the dirt mound, causing it to explode upward in a cloud of clay and granite.
He burst forward through the cloud, seeing his target as a glowing skeleton of naked energy. It plodded forward into the rain of ejecta and Jack pounced.
He struck it unaware. His fingers clung to the edge of an armor plate, and the machine spun hard to buck him off. His body swung out from the surface like a rockclimber in an earthquake, but he held tight. In another second, he brought his feet up and wrapped his legs around the arm, then he gripped at it with his knees, grabbed another plate and began to pull.
The armor came free with a groan, metal sheets stretching and tearing apart to reveal the brightly glowing muscles within. Jack thrust his hand inside, tightened his fingers, and ripped out its core.
The broken arm flopped to the ground, while the rest of the machine’s body spasmed in a remarkably lifelike way.
Jack dropped and caught hold of the jetman’s waist, where he again tugged apart the armor and struck at the soft internal components. When he pulled the insides outside this time, the entire contraption fell lifeless and simply stopped.
Standing atop the fallen giant, Jack somehow ignored the battle still surging all around him and looked over his prey. He could see a human silhouette inside its torso, and he watched as the last of its life force vanished. The entire machine went dark and cold.
The man and his machine had been tied together as one. The realization caused Jack’s eyes to blaze with fury and sadness, even while something quiet and confused inside him began to sing.
There wasn’t time to ruminate. He had work to do or so many more would die.
He rushed out across the battlefield, making a beeline for the swollen and cracked hill where he’d first discovered the Eireki Golden Seed.
After this comes Chapter 41: Four Lions, full of action, suspense, and absolutely no lions! Fancy that. 🙂
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