Continuing the saga of the bestselling game series!
With the Locust Horde apparently destroyed, Jacinto’s survivors have begun to rebuild human society on the Locusts’ stronghold. Raiding pirate gangs take a toll—but it’s nothing that Marcus Fenix and the Gears can’t handle. Then the nightmare that they thought they’d left behind begins to stalk them again. Something far worse, something even the Locust dreaded, has emerged to spread across the planet, and not even this remote island haven is beyond its reach. Gears and Stranded must fight side by side to survive their deadliest enemy yet, falling back on the savage tactics of another bloody siege—Anvil Gate.
Karen Traviss is the #1
New York Times bestselling author of three previous Star Wars: Republic Commando novels:
Hard Contact, Triple Zero, and
True Colors; three Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novels:
Bloodlines, Revelation, and
Sacrifice; as well as
City of Pearl, Crossing the Line, The World Before, Matriarch, Ally, and
Judge. A former defense correspondent and TV and newspaper journalist, Traviss has also worked as a police press officer, an advertising copywriter, and a journalism lecturer. Her short stories have appeared in
Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, On Spec, and
Star Wars Insider. She lives in Devizes, England.
COALITION OF ORDERED GOVERNMENTS NAVAL BASE VECTES
NONCITIZEN INCIDENT LOG SUMMARY THAW 1 TO BRUME 35, 14 a.e., INCLUSIVE.
Attacks on property: 35 Attacks on civilians: 20 Casualties, civilian: 15 injured, 6 dead. Casualties, COG personnel: 18 injured, no fatalities. Casualties, insurgents: 30 dead. (Injury data unavailable. No wounded detained.)
Vectes Naval Base, Navy of the Coalition of Ordered Governments, New Jacinto: first week of Storm, 15 a.e.
"Welcome to New Jacinto," said Chairman Prescott. "And welcome to the protection of the Coalition of Ordered Governments. May this new year be a new start for us all."
Hoffman had to hand it to Prescott; he could always manage to look as if whatever lie he was telling at the time was the holy truth. The two men stood on the jetty as the Gorasni container ship Paryk disembarked its human cargo, five hundred civilians from an independent republic that had still been officially at war with the Coalition until last month. They were part of the COG now, whether they liked it or not. Hoffman guessed that they didn''t.
"They don''t look in a party mood, Chairman," Hoffman said.
A statesmanlike half-smile was nailed to Prescott''s face, probably more for the benefit of his local audience--a detachment of Gears, a medical team, some civilian representatives--than for the new arrivals.
"I hope it''s disorientation and seasickness rather than a lack of gratitude," he said.
Hoffman eyed the procession, looking for potential troublemakers and wondering if any of the refugees spoke the language well enough to see the irony in the COG''s title. Governments? There was only one government left, a city-sized administration on a remote island a week''s sailing time from Tyrus. That was all that was left of a global civilization of billions after fifteen years of fighting the Locust.
But on a sunny day like this, not a typical Storm day at all, Vectes must have looked pretty good compared with the mainland. No grub had ever set foot here, and it showed. The Gorasni bastards should have been grateful. Safe haven and food in exchange for all that extra fuel they didn''t need? It was a good deal.
"Maybe they just hate our guts." Hoffman tried to imagine the mind-set of a pipsqueak nation that ignored the Pendulum Wars cease-fire. That was some serious grudge-nursing. "It was their leader''s idea to join us. I''m betting he didn''t take a vote on it."
"Let''s hope they think of it as a bring-a-bottle party."
The Gorasni certainly weren''t arriving empty-handed to drain the COG''s limited resources. They were surrendering their imulsion supplies--an operational offshore drilling platform--in exchange for a refuge. In a world burned to a wasteland, fuel and food were the two assets that meant there''d be a tomorrow. Hoffman wasn''t crazy about the Indies and he was damned sure they weren''t crazy about him, but these were desperate times.
Can''t be too choosy about our neighbors. At least they''re not Stranded. They''re not killing us--yet.
A security detail of Gears lined the jetty, channeling the refugees to the reception team at an old storehouse that was built into the fortresslike walls. Hoffman glanced at the faces around him and wondered if any war could ever make you forget the one that preceded it. But the Vectes locals had never even seen a Locust. Their monsters were still the Indies, the old human enemy from an eighty-year war--the people landing on this jetty.
"Bastards." An elderly man from the Pelruan town council wore a chestful of Pendulum War medals on his threadbare jacket, including the Allfathers'' Medal. No, he wasn''t about to forget. "Can''t forgive any of them. Least of all those who still aren''t sorry for what they did."
Hoffman noted the campaign ribbons and chose his words carefully. It was hard to navigate that dividing line between mortal enemies one day and new allies the next. The name that made his bile rise wasn''t Gorasnaya, though, so he could look at these Indies with a certain distance.
Should I? I know what they did. I know what the old guy means. But they weren''t the only ones. We all did things we weren''t proud of.
"They''re Indies with plenty of fuel," Hoffman said at last, conscious of Prescott eavesdropping. The man could look engrossed in something but that slight tilt of the head said he was taking in everything within earshot. "Nobody''s asking you to forgive. Just take their imulsion as war reparation."
The old man stared at Hoffman as if he was an ignorant kid rather than a fellow vet.
"My comrades died in a Gorasni forced labor camp." He tugged at his lapel so Hoffman could see a timeworn regimental pin with the trident badge of the Duke of Tollen''s Regiment. "The Indies can shove their fuel up their ass."
"Mind my asking why you''ve come today?"
"Just wanted to see how they looked without a rifle in their hands," said the old man. He was probably in his seventies, maybe only ten or fifteen years older than Hoffman, but the border with old age always moved a few years ahead with each birthday. "Everyone needs to look their monsters in the eye. Right?"
And all monsters needed to acknowledge their guilt before forgiveness could begin. Gorasnaya hadn''t even come close. Maybe that would never have been enough anyway.
"Right," said Hoffman.
The veteran turned his back on the stream of newcomers filing along the quay and hobbled away. The Gorasni weren''t going to get a welcome parade from the townsfolk in the north of the island, that was for sure.
Prescott took one step back and bent his knees slightly to whisper to Hoffman. "Doesn''t bode well, Victor."
"What did you expect?"
"It was a whole war ago. It''s history now."
"Not here." While most of the world fried, Vectes had waited without much to distract it. The island had been cut off from the rest of the COG when the Hammer of Dawn was deployed, although whether it thought itself lucky now was another matter. "It''s still yesterday for some of them."
"I never served on the eastern front," Hoffman said. He had his bad memories like any other Gear, but they had nothing to do with Gorasnaya. "I don''t imagine some Indies have fond recollections of us, either."
Prescott inhaled slowly, eyes still on the procession of Gorasni. "I won''t allow human society to rebuild ghettos, but let''s be prudent. Keep the refugees apart from the rest of the civilians until we''re absolutely sure that everyone''s used to the idea. Like the rehabilitated."
"Is that what we''re calling them now?" Hoffman had now had a bellyful of euphemisms. "Let me strike the word Stranded from my operational vocabulary, then. I thought we were keeping the rehabilitated ones separate for opsec reasons so they didn''t tip off their unrehabilitated buddies about our patrols."
If Hoffman''s irritable lack of deference irked Prescott, the man didn''t let it show. In fact, the slimeball smirked. "Who says a certain caution about the Gorasni refugees isn''t for operational security too?"
Refugees was an ironic term. Everyone on Vectes--except the native islanders--had fled from Old Jacinto only months earlier. Lines were drawn fast in this new post-Locust world. Hoffman glanced up the jetty to watch three Pelruan councilmen talking in a tight knot, one of them far too young to have served in the Pendulum Wars anyway. So were a lot of the Gorasni. That didn''t mean they hadn''t inherited opinions from those who weren''t.
Nobody''s ever seen more than a few months of peace. Any of us. How long does it take people to forget? Or do we never manage to?
"Trescu''s going to keep his people in line, and so will we," Hoffman said at last. He didn''t like the look of a couple of the men disembarking, in particular the way their jackets hung as if draped over something bulky underneath. Gorasnaya might have been relaxed about arming civvies, but the COG wasn''t. They''d have to deal with that, diplomatically or not. "It''s all about keeping folks fed and busy."
"The voice of experience."
And you know where I acquired it, don''t you, asshole? "Nothing''s more trouble than hungry, bored people."
"Where is Trescu?"
"With Michaelson, working out tanker rosters."
"Good." Prescott lost interest in the refugees right on cue. He checked his watch and took a couple of steps up the jetty in the direction of his office. "I want a permanent detachment of Gears on that rig. Can''t be too careful."
"Already in hand, Chairman. I''m putting Fenix and Santiago on it. They''re heading out shortly to do a security assessment."
"Wouldn''t they be better tasked rooting out the Stranded? We can destroy a Locust army, but suddenly we can''t eradicate a few hundred half-starved vagrants."
"I know who my best problem-solvers are, Chairman." And I''m the frigging chief of staff here. I decide how I deploy my men. Hoffman ignored the sly criticism. "That imulsion platform is going to be a bigger problem than pest control."
Prescott gave him a brief frown but didn''t ask for an explanation. It didn''t take a genius to work it out anyway. Gorasnaya couldn''t protect that damn rig--or maintain it--without having to crawl to the COG for help. It was going to tie up COG resources. But the COG needed the imulsion to keep the fleet running, build a city, and drag this damn place out of the last century.
Prescott gave Hoffman his best statesman''s public relations smile--no display of teeth, just a curl of the lips. "I have absolute faith in you, Colonel. We would never have survived this far without your leadership. I look forward to the report."