Here we go… I’m working on new project (along with all my other series). It’s something a bit different for a few reasons and the first of those being it’s a Sci-Fantasy… which is a bit of a weird genre. It’s a lot of fun so far and I’ve got plans to make it a longer ongoing series.
But I also thought I’d try a bit of a different way of releasing it. So, here’s the prologue, available to all. Subsequent chapters will be posted twice weekly here for my patrons. Once the book is finished I’ll be publishing it via Amazon and all my patrons will get a free ebook copy.
For now, I’m calling it CODENAME: Final Genesis, but this is a temporary name for the work. Also, there will be typos, and it’s entirely possible things will change between now and the eventual release.
I hope you all like it.
FINAL GENESIS – Prologue
An explosion shook the titan’s hull. Fire vented out into space, sucked away and snuffed out in moments. It all happened in moments. No sound, just fire and debris flying off into the black.
Iro watched out the little window of his room. He shuffled on the crate he had pushed up against the wall and pressed his face against the glass, waiting for the next sign of the titan’s demise. The glass steamed with every breath and he wiped a ragged sleeve across the portal to clear it.
A series of detonations, more fire venting into the cold darkness. A small section of the titan came away, drifted apart from the larger mass. Small was a relative term, Iro admitted. The titan was massive, beyond any scale he could fathom. The Home Fleet consisted of thirty-eight ships, each one housing nearly ten thousand people. The section of titan that had just come away was larger than the entire fleet. The titan as a whole was a construct on a scale that defied reason. And it was dying.
And when the titan died, the Home Fleet died with it.
An alarm bleated out at uncomfortable volume, warning everyone on the Courage that the ship was changing course. With the titan dying, the whole fleet would be changing course. They had to pull away from the wreck before debris shot in every direction. No ship in the Home Fleet had used shields in centuries. Most had dismantled the systems long ago to shore up the failing life support systems. That’s why they clung to the titan when they found it.
Food, electronics, technology, clothing, minerals. Everything the fleet needed to survive could be found on the titan. Whoever had built it, built it to be entirely self sufficient. A ship the size of a planetoid drifting through space. Of course, whoever had built it was long gone. Now it was filled with horrific monsters and deadly traps. Each section further in more dangerous than the last. The Home Fleet had been sending Hoppers to the titan for decades, and they had barely got past the surface levels. And now they never would.
“Iro?” Neya shouted. “Slug, where are you?”
His older sister sounded excited, her voice full of an energy that put a grin on Iro’s face without knowing why. He clambered down from his box and rushed to the door, pulling it open. The rooms he shared with Neya and their mother were small, but a boy of Iro’s size could still hide in them if he wanted to.
Neya charged around the corner of the hallway from her own room. She was struggling to pull on a boot, and hopped into the metal wall. A laugh erupted from her and she grinned at Iro. She was tall and strong, made even bigger by her white titan-forged armour. “They picked me, Iro!” Neya shouted. She finished pulling on her boot, lurched forward, and grabbed Iro up into a bear hug. She spun him about and then dropped him. He stumbled as he hit the floor.
“You’re going?” Iro asked. He couldn’t keep the tremor from his voice. The titan was dying. He knew the Home Fleet would send a final Hopper party or two across, but the thought of Neya going scared him.
Neya grinned through the nest of freckles across her nose and cheeks, and nodded energetically. Her short, dark hair flopped over her face, and she reached up and tied it into tail, though a few strands immediately escaped and flopped forward past her nose. “Old Brecka from the Vermillion is forming a party. He’s got a Vanguard, a Striker, a Breaker, and a Surveyor.” She jumped and punched a hand against the wall in excitement. “You know what that means?”
Iro did. That was a mostly physical party of Hoppers, and that meant they needed an Enhancer. That meant they needed a Hopper from the Courage. “And they picked you?”
Neya shrugged. “Brecka wanted Phusone, but he’s still injured from his last Hop. Second choice is better than none, right?” She laughed again, still grinning. “We’re going to the Dome, Iro. That’s the furthest in I’ve ever been by… uh…”
“Three levels,” Iro finished for her. He idolised his sister, envied her even. She was a Rank Three physical Enhancer. She had just discovered her unique talent and that made her the best the Courage had after Phusone. Iro knew everything about every Hop she’d ever been on. Most of the time she only ever got to go on surface Hops, exploring the first few levels of the titan where the danger was lowest. After all, she was still young and inexperienced despite having recently opened her Third Gate.
Iro dreamed of exploring the titan. Fighting the monsters and dodging the traps, just like Neya. At eighteen, she was only six years older than him. But he was small and weak. And worse than that, he had no talent. Without a talent, he’d never be a Hopper. Normals like him were destined for nothing but ship repairs, food cultivation, general maintenance.
“Have you seen my sword?” Neya asked.
Iro nodded eagerly and darted back into his room. Neya’s blade was leaning against the wall and he scooped it up in both hands and carried it out to her. “I was cleaning it,” he said. It was only partly a lie. He’d also been swinging it about and dreaming of slaying monsters.
“Course you were,” Neya said. She grinned and ruffled his hair, snatching up the sword in one hand and giving it a practice swing. Not that there was room to really swing it in the hallway. She paused mid-swing and stared at the blade. “Scrap it, Slug. Did you chip the blade?”
Iro paled and stared at the floor. He’d accidentally hit the wall with it just yesterday and a tiny chip came loose. He was hoping she wouldn’t notice.
“Here,” Neya handed him the sword back. “I’ll pick one up from the armoury. You need to get that repaired.”
Iron nodded and took the sword, nipping back into his room and leaning it against the wall. When he turned back around, he found Naya staring over his head out the window in his room. She drew in a deep, trembling breath. “Last Hop before it all falls apart,” she said, a note of anxiety in her voice.
“Bring me back something nice,” Iro said.
Neya snorted, already squeezing past him and heading for the door. “Brecka’s taking us to the Dome, Iro. That means its a food run.”
“Bring me an apple?” Iro suggested hopefully.
“We’ll see, Slug,” Neya said. She stopped and pressed the button on her earpiece. “I’m coming. Jeez, Brecka can wait another minute.” She pulled open the door and strode out, letting it swing slowly closed behind her. “Then get the pod ready, I’ll be there in three…” Her voice trailed off into the distance.
Iro shifted about uncomfortably. He felt strange, his stomach fluttering. He stumbled back into his room, climbed his wooden crate once more, and stared at the titan. Another explosion rocked the outer hull, silently shedding bits of the titan into space. It looked peaceful, but Iro knew it was anything but. If one of those shards of titan hull came towards the fleet, it could scuttle a ship easily.
After a few minutes, one of the Courage’s pods launched, speeding away on thruster fire towards the titan. Neya would be on that pod and Iro watched it until it was too small to see against the hull of the titan. He quickly fetched his makeshift radio and carried it back to the window. He’d scrounged together parts, stolen wires from non-critical systems, and charged the battery by hooking it up to the lights in his own room. If the ship’s wardens caught him with the radio, he’d be reprimanded, but it was worth it to listen to his sister’s Hops. Iro might not have a talent, but he knew enough about electronics to build a radio.
Iro tuned it in and connected it to his own earpiece. He could listen in to his sister’s comms, but the radio was only one way. He heard her pod make landing. Listened to her meet up with Brecka and the others. They opened the outer doors and breached the Dome. The comms went frantic then, but Iro pieced it together. There were khornids in the Dome. Vicious multi legged beasts with armoured skin, venomous fangs, and claws that could shred even titan-forged armour. He listened to Brecka call for an enhancement. Neya would be boosting his strength, making his great sword vibrate to cut through the khornids’ armour. She was amazing, throwing enhancements onto all four of the other members of her Hop. The fight was over quickly. Beter, the Vanguard, had taken a nasty bite, but Neya’s enhancement had made his skin as hard as stone, and the fangs hadn’t penetrated the skin. Neya’s Hop proceeded to the next level of the Dome. They’d need to reach level three before they could gather enough food to make the Hop worthwhile.
Another explosion tore Iro’s attention away from the radio. This one was larger than before. An entire section of the front end of the titan was blown away violently. Debris the size of ships scattered into space in every direction, and a massive chunk of the hull detached and scraped along the rest of the titan. The alarm bleated again and the Home Fleet made another course correction. They’d have to leave soon or risk being caught in the death throes.
“Take cover!” Iro heard Brecka shout over Neya’s comms. He was an old man, built like a bull and stronger than a mechalift, but he sounded scared.
“Those are Vhar Casters, Brek,” shouted another man. “What are they doing here?”
Iro jumped off his box as the Hoppers argued. He pulled out his Titan Bestiary, the one he’d been compiling since he was six, and began flicking through the pages. Vhar Casters were humanoid in shape but twice as big. They rippled with muscles they took from their kills, then sticked into their own skin. Worst of all, they were capable of casting themselves over short distances, disappearing and reappearing in a blast of cacophonic sound. They shouldn’t be at the Dome. Vhar Casters were only found further in. Eighth level and higher. Iro ran back to the window and stared at the titan once more, hands gripping the ledge around the glass.
A blast of static ripped across the radio, drowning out the comms. A few moments later, Iro heard a woman’s voice he didn’t recognise. “Brecka? Brek? Scrap it, he’s dead!”
They’re fleeing the interior. The thought occurred to Iro. The Vhar Casters wouldn’t be fleeing the interior of the titan unless…
Another explosions ripped away part of the titan. It was close to the Dome this time. Too close.
“Scrap!” Neya cursed over the radio. “They titan is going down around us. They’re fleeing the explosions.”
“What do we do?” asked the other woman. “Those Casters are between us and the pods? Breckas dead. What do we do?”
Silence drowned out the radio for a few moments. Iro heard his heart thumping in his ears. His fingers hurt from digging into the window ledge. “Come home,” he whispered. His vision blurred and he wiped tears on his Courage jumpsuit. “Please, sis.”
“You there, Slug?” Neya asked over the radio. There was a lot of noise suddenly. Explosions ripping through the hull of the titan. Iro could see them from the outside. The entire megastructure was coming apart, bending and breaking. He could hear the Vhar Casters too, screaming. And over it all, Neya’s voice. Calm. Far too calm for the chaos happening around her.
“Course you are. Always listening, aren’t you.” Neya sniffed. “I don’t think I’m making it back this time, Slug. Look after mum for me. She’s gonna be sad, and you gotta be brave for her. You gotta be her courage.” She chuckled. “Just like you’ve always been mine, yeah?”
Iro heard a human scream across the radio. It went dead for a few moments. He looked out the window again and saw a massive explosion rip through the titan, sawing it in half. Each half the size of a moon, tearing apart, venting fire and precious oxygen out into the cold dark. Another explosion rocked the titan’s wing where the Dome sat.
“Scrap it!” Neya swore over the radio. She was breathing hard like she was running. “You deserve to know. Iro, listen to me. Mum won’t tell us. I think she blocked it out. Forgot it. But I found him. I know where our dad is. He’s…”
The radio went dead as the Dome shattered.
Iro listened to the static of the radio, hoping Neya would come back. He didn’t care about their father, or the titan, or any of it. He just wanted to hear Neya’s voice again. He just wanted his sister to come home.
Another series of explosions rocked the titan. The alarm bleating across the Courage sounded distant. Iro realised they were moving away. The Home Fleet was putting distance between them and the dying titan.
It seemed to last for hours. Or maybe it was only minutes. The titan got smaller and smaller in the window until he could see most of it. He knew just how far away they had to be. Then, in one final act of violence, the titan’s extensive engine core exploded in a light bright enough to rival the stars.
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