Reading sample

Since I want to show my texts to the English-speaking market, I have had some of my books translated from German into English. Here is a small reading sample and a link to the whole novele Überschrift ein

 

 

 

 

 

NOMADS 1 – The Invaders

by

Allan J. Stark

PROLOG

The first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization took place on February 21st of the year 4589, and it had none of the things someone would hope to happen, from such an event, or wish for in connection with it. There was no gleaming spaceship descending majestically and mysteriously from the sky. No tall, angelic visitor demanding to speak with our leaders and then give a speech to the United Nations. There was no emissary from a far advanced civilization offering us peace, to take the young mankind by the hand and introduce us to the mysteries of the universe. No superior concept to settle the petty squabbles among the nations and the eternal struggle to control the planet’s resources. The strangers had brought their own conflicts and added them to our problems.
I remember the days well, when the ground trembled and the nights lit up by the broadsides of mighty spaceships cruising across the sky. The first contact with the aliens was disturbing, brutal, frightening and had the charm of a punch right in the face.
There was something overwhelmingly casual about their unwelcome visit. In their eyes, we humans were not even an annoying evil crawling over the surface of the earth, disrupting the troop movements of the warring parties. An evil could not be ignored. An evil had to be responded to, fought, dealt with. But we were not worth fighting, we were simply in the way. We were casually trampled, like ants on the sidewalk. And the fact we had to deal with two cultures wich an interstellar war had brought to the outskirts of the Milky Way didn’t make it any better. The only remarkable fact was the amount of destruction on Earth, the lunar settlements, and all the other colonies and planets in the Solar System. Also impressive was the arbitrariness with which whole continents were devastated in order to build bases and bases of operations. But soon at least the Akkato realised the value of the little Earth people. We proved to be tough, persistent, reliable, and our ability to suffer amazed the tall beings with the horse-like heads who came from a green world with dense jungles. They gave us weapons, trained us, and sent us to fight the insectoid Keymon. The integration of humanity into the hostile galactic family was done through recruitment centers set up by the Akkato, or by simply kidnapping individuals capable of fighting and integrating them into the fleet against their will. Neither the Keymon nor the Akkato were friends of humans, and they were not squeamish in their dealings with us. Soon it becomes clear to me that we were just cheap cannon fodder for them to keep the losses of the forest-dwelling horse skulls on a low level.
And so it comes that I, Dominic Porter, also had the ambivalent pleasure of embarking on my first voyage to the stars, to explore the far reaches of the galaxy and learn about the less than peaceful cultures of a million star systems. Chapter 1

September 4603

Dominic Porter sat in front of an oval, armored window aboard the Akkatoship Skitra, looking down on his home. He would be twenty-six years old in a month, and he was already part of a generation of young people who had experienced and been through too much suffering for their age. At least he hadn’t aged before his time, like quite a few of his peers, and managed to retain his youthful carelessness. Some might have considered it recklessness, but Dominic was not at all the sort of person who went through life without compassion or responsibility. He was merely trying to save his skin, and for that an unbroken spirit was indispensable.
In Dominic’s narrow face, with its bright green-blue eyes, one looked in vain for the lines of worry. His auburn hair showed no streaks of gray, as it did in many of his peers, where fear had left white parts.
Dominic looked down at the clusters of lights of the cities of Fargo, Willmar, Minneapolis. Between them, the sparse lights of countless villages dotted the desolate countryside like lone stars. They all shrank to small glowing dots the higher the skitra rose. Even the monstrous pillars of the Akkato bases grew tinier and tinier. Dominic could make out about ten of those towers from up here, stretching in a straight line to the horizon, casting long shadows across the land as the dawn came up.
Mighty Akkato ships had moored to the buildings and were waiting to be dispatched. Countless feeder boats buzzed around them with glowing thrusters, like swarms of fireflies circling the trunks of giant trees.
In the shimmer of dawn, the outlines of the great lakes began to emerge, shining like fragments of polished mirror. They now lacked the shapes Dominic had learned about in school lessons and had been familiar with since childhood. Everywhere, bullets had punched circular holes in the ground with their immense destructive power and had so damaged the natural structures of the landscape that nothing reminded of their original shape anymore. Many craters, meanwhile, had filled with water and covered the ground in a strange-looking pattern, as if drops of mercury had fallen to the ground. In the brilliance of the new day, they looked like the work of an artist who had tested his skills on entire planets, taking the risk of destroying civilizations and peoples in the process.
There was only speculation about the loss of life since first contact with the Akkato and the Keymon. And neither party seemed interested in finding out what damage they had done so far. The Earthlings and their suffering were of little importance to the war that Akkato and Keymon had been waging against each other for millennia. But at least it turned out that the Akkato had a little less disrespect for humans than the insectoid Keymon.
While all infrastructure had collapsed in the areas dominated by the beetles, it was still possible to get along relatively well in the territories where the Akkato were in charge. Many who inhabited those areas believed in a return to normal life once the invaders left. But Dominic harbored doubts that the Akkato or Keymon would ever leave this planet again. And even if they did, life on Earth could never be the same again.
Dominic was not the first to realize this and had joined the Akkato in battle, seeking his fortune in the far reaches of space. However, the Akkato fought their war on many fronts, and the likelihood of dying before then was almost certain.
The Skitra, which translated meant „sword“ and which was under the command of Ulan Mestray, was rather the suitable means to bring him to the stars. And Mestray was a glorious Akkato warrior who had given the Keymon a run for their money and had nearly driven them from Earth. Almost – because a few weeks before, supplies had arrived for the Beetles, which was why they had been able to hold their remaining positions. Why Ulan Mestray had been withdrawn from Earth just at this moment, Dominic couldn’t explain. But it was unnecessary to worry about it. The Akkatos would not let him in on their inscrutable intentions, and there was nothing left on Earth to keep him there. After one of the giant Keymon ships had crashed over his home, leaving nothing but a charred wasteland where his family met their end, he wanted to turn his back on everything that reminded him of his lost home.
Finally, the Skitra veered onto a course that would carry it out of the solar system, and Earth disappeared from his view. Dominic jumped from the bench seat in front of the window and looked at the room he was in. It wasn’t particularly large, certainly not by Akkato standards, as the full-grown Akkato usually towered over humans by a good arm’s length. It exuded the quiet solemnity of a church. Lights flickered in several openings in the walls, as if candles were burning within. A tangy scent of herbs and aromatic resins hung in the air. It had to be a meditation room or chapel of some sort. Dominic’s nose was filled with strange, sweet scents that were meant to caress his senses and make him receptive to divine comfort. But it was also the shapes that captivated him and were pleasing to his eyes. Shapes that were so very different from anything humans could construct. All the structures flowed into one another as if one were inside a plant. There were no edges, no corners or right angles. Everything appeared organic and in constant motion. No wonder, Dominic thought, since every Akkato ship was made of wood, and that alone made it a distinct contrast to human or Keymon vehicles.
The Keymon ships and structures gleamed silver and copper, had angular shapes here and there, and were covered in ornaments that Dominic couldn’t tell if they were simply ornamental or served a function. The Akkato ships, on the other hand, looked like flying logs and gave the appearance of having been streamlined by crude axes. Only upon closer inspection could one see the fine construction.
Until recently, Dominic had never been able to look at one of the ships from the inside and his fascination grew by the minute. The Skitra radiated a powerful dignity that was expressed in many details. Organic, powerful shapes that gave the impression of forming a single, solid body that had no joints. Also, everything was larger than on the few ships that the giant Akkato had made available to the humans, which had been elaborately adapted to human proportions. Here, however, they had not taken that trouble. Consoles, quarters and command posts had been created by the Akkato designers exclusively for their own kind. The switches, buttons and controls were large and unsuitable for small human hands.
The living containers aboard the Skitra, which came from Earth’s military stockpiles and somehow ended up in Akkato’s possession, seemed like foreign bodies. They served as housing for the humans. Dominic, too, had already secured a bed and a locker. There was plenty of room for more recruits to arrive shortly and Dominic would be allowed to assemble a squad from them.
Dominic left the meditation room, strolled through the corridors and finally reached the ship’s canteen. A few tables and chairs had been set up here, taken from the stocks of the human fleet. All the human beings aboard the Skitra often gathered here and took their meals. Now, too, Dominic saw quite a few humans in the process of taking their meal. Some with obvious appetites and others who were listlessly poking around in their plates and bowls. Among them were several new faces. There had to be about fifty, sixty people, Dominic estimated. Men and women, ranging in age from twenty, to forty. The newcomers had not yet been introduced to him. Dominic didn’t know their names or their ranks. A shuttle had picked them up from the rendezvous point near Dallas and dropped them off at the Skitra hangar a little over an hour ago. Dominic took the opportunity to observe the scene from a distance.
The Akkato officer receiving the humans refrained from rattling off the complicated names of the recruits to verify that all the requested human soldiers were on board. He merely glanced at the faces of the new arrivals and occasionally at his datapad to match the information he could read on it. Afterwards, the surly creature took the humans to canteen and made off without giving them any further instructions. Now they waited to be assigned their quarters. They were made to wait and Dominic also refrained from taking a closer look at his future comrades-in-arms for the time being. He had too many thoughts running through his head right now, which he had to sort out first, before he wanted to devote himself to the problems of strangers. After his walk through the corridors of the Skitra, he finally found himself here in the canteen to meet his new comrades.
There was no face among them that Dominic knew, but some of them seemed to have spent time together. From the way they were interacting, Dominic guessed that they had been in quite a few battles together. They chatted mindlessly and seemed to be talking about past missions and experiences. Sometimes they laughed or commented on some incident with joking remarks, but quickly returned to their usual seriousness. Others, however, sat lonely and alone before their meal, silently surveying their surroundings – aloof, thoughtful, suspicious. Some gave the impression of being used to losses and therefore not eager to make new friends. They avoided eye contact with the others and sat somewhat apart.
Faced with the new and unfamiliar situation, many of the young recruits looked around tensely and uncertainly. No doubt they too had never seen the inside of an Akkatos ship before. They all seemed to realize that they were in a dangerous place and that all hell could break loose at any moment.
Dominic remembered clearly the first day on the destroyer to which he had been assigned – the Zora, under the command of Daniel Perk. He too had felt lonely and lost then. Uncertain, given the adventures and dangers that were yet to await him. He could understand the boys and girls very well. Dominic chose to join the Home Fleet when he was eighteen, and now he had been with them for eight years.
„I thought I’d join you,“ he said a little awkwardly as he sat down with the recruits.
„All too obvious.“
The sour comment came from a red-haired boy with water-blue eyes sitting across from him. Porter ignored the boy’s words.
„Where did you come from?“ continued Porter, unperturbed.
„Gonna be a Q&A session,“ the boy followed up. „Thought I’d finally gotten the interrogations out of the way.“
Dominic stood up to leave. „Sorry. It was a stupid idea.“
„He didn’t mean it,“ said one of the girls sitting next to the redhead, at which Porter sat down again. „He’s just excited, like the rest of us. I’m Sandra Dix, the cheeky guy here …“
„Is David Moore,“ the redhead forestalled her. „And he’s planning on being an admiral. But we still don’t know your name.“
„My name is Dominic Porter,“ he finally introduced himself.
„Lieutenant Dominic Porter,“ Moore noted with a casual glance at Dominic’s epaulettes.
Sandra Dix dedicated a wry smile to Dominic. Her green eyes glittered. „Then I guess we’ll have to salute you.“
„Depends on what the captain thinks, though,“ Dominic waved it off. „In the home fleet, they’ve gotten rid of a lot of formalities. How that’s handled here, I don’t know. I only arrived here a short time before you did“
Dominic found this lack of formal discipline unfortunate. It led to many problems due to disrespect. It also caused trouble on the Zora from time to time, but he didn’t want to shake the established customs or start a debate about it now.
„Have you been in the field long?“ asked another boy, who was perhaps the youngest in the troop. He had a narrow, inquisitive face, with lots of freckles, and short, white-blond hair.
„I served on the Zora,“ Dominic Porter explained, aware that this revelation could start a discussion. „Three years under Captain Perk.“
„The Zora?“ David Moore had astonishment written all over his face. „The captain perk? Daniel Perk?“
Dominic realized he had made a mistake by coming out with it so soon. He could have said he’d spent the last few years serving on a destroyer, or any other ship, without giving any name. There were thousands of ships and he could have come up with a name.
„He sold his team to the Keymon.“ The girl with the broad face and brown hair showed disgust. „Because of him, we lost ten thousand men. And three battleships.“
Another recruit couldn’t help himself. „They say he’s a slave trader. He sold people. To the Keymon and to other races in the galaxy.“
The boy making these claims was a little too fat for a soldier. Dominic feared he might become a problem should they have to conduct a ground operation. Why hadn’t his superiors brought him up to speed?
„Shut up,“ David Moore ran his mouth over the fat man’s. „It was all a conspiracy, wasn’t it? People were trying to piss off Perk.“
At that moment, Dominic decided to like the redhead a little more.
„There have been a lot of words. Too many words.“ Dominic looked at the round more closely and a suspicion crept into his mind. „You all kind of belong together, but you weren’t in the fight.“
„We’re from the university,“ Sandra Dix informed him.
„Thomas Moore University in Baltimore,“ added the fat man.
„I didn’t know they were recruiting students now,“ Dominic wondered.
„We’re just as good as anybody else,“ said the girl with the broad face.
Dominic dared to doubt that. But her classmates seemed just as convinced of her fighting ability as she was.
„You’ll have a chance to prove that soon enough,“ Dominic said, looking gravely around the room. „But zeal is no substitute for experience.“
„Nialla is right,“ Sandra agreed with a nod to the broad-faced girl. „We’ve highlighted all the strategies used in this conflict in our discussion group. We know very well.“
„Discussion Circle. Strategies illuminated. All strategies, in fact.“ Dominic Porter had to use every effort to suppress a shake of his head and a laugh. He had found the saviors of humanity, he reflected with amusement, and now he would lead them to the battlefield. „Who else is in your group?“
Sandra Dix introduced him to the fat boy named Peter Norden, Alex Donhall, with the freckles, the broad-faced Nialla López, and two other boys. Christan Peskin and Frederik Zest, and a dark-haired girl named Linda Sung with slightly Asian features.
A soft chime announced the coming of an Akkato officer. The experienced soldiers in the room rose hastily. Dominic Porter also stood up and took his stance. The students followed his example. Thumb to the seam of his trousers, eyes straight ahead, shoulders taut. Perfect. At least they had practiced this well, Porter thought to himself.
The Akkato motioned for the humans to follow him so he could take them to their shelters. They shouldered their backpacks and followed the hulking being.
The people’s quarters consisted of several living containers, lined up in the Skitra’s hangar. People could choose their own room-mates, and soon groups had formed to share their quarters.
Porter asked the students to move into one of the containers where he had previously stored his belongings. The young people eyed the cots and bunk beds suspiciously. Apparently they had expected something more luxurious. Not the first disappointment that would befall them, Porter thought to himself.
An elderly sergeant had joined them and occupied the last vacant bed. He was a short, stocky man with short gray hair and a perfectly trimmed beard that still showed a coppery red around the chin. His name was Aaron Kruger and he didn’t talk much. After checking his bunk by lying down on it and stowing his luggage in the locker next to it, he began to disassemble and clean his rifle, though it was apparently unnecessary. Kruger also possessed a handsome arsenal of modified stabbing and handguns, which he spread out on the floor in front of his bed.
Dominic felt the moment was right to put the troops under his command.
„I welcome you to the Skitra,“ he began to greet the newcomers in a firm voice, their attention turned to Dominic. „You have chosen accommodation ten thirty-three. I am Lieutenant Dominic Porter and by your choice you have also agreed to place yourselves under my command. There is nothing to shake or discuss about that. The Akkato do not want a complex bureaucracy where we are concerned. So your unit is the Ten-Three-Three. You will find showers and restrooms in the rear of the quarters. I expect order and cleanliness. As my father used to say, any man who finds himself on a desert island will find ample opportunity to present himself as a civilized and well-groomed individual. Here you have more than enough at your disposal to live up to that ideal.“
He eyed the men and women who stared at him in irritation.
„Does anyone else have any questions?“ wanted Porter to know, but no one seemed in the mood to address him. Neither Dix, nor Lopez, nor any of the other students touched on the thorny issue surrounding the Zora and Captain Perk that they had discussed earlier.
Dominic wished everyone a good night and decided to go to sleep. If only to avoid questions about his time on the Zora, should anyone still wish to satisfy his curiosity. Fortunately, he wasn’t the only one whose need for sleep took its toll. The day had been long for all of them and the transport from the barracks to the assembly point and from the assembly point to the Skitra had certainly been more strenuous than expected. Everyone turned in early. Dominic, however, could find no rest. Restlessly, he tossed and turned, staring into the darkness. His thoughts revolved around all the events that had brought him to this place. Back to about six years earlier, when he had completed his second year of training with the Home Fleet and was visiting his family.

Allan J. Stark

Allan J. Stark geb. 25. 01. 1968

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