Space Opera, Science Fiction
Date Published: January 2017
Set 80 years into the future, Nelson Jones, a young military cadet full of optimism and hope is enlisted into the New Era - a fascist regime that arises to rule the world after a horrifying attack from an alien species known as the Great Tribe.
Under the leadership of Earth's dictator, President Jacob Freeman with his ruthless enforcer, Major Ira Bilis, Nelson witnesses horrible abuses of power and is forced to confront his values and his world view to make difficult choices. When he happens across a small faction of resistance against this tyranny, Nelson must consider whether to risk his life to do what he feels is right.
Praise for The Devil's Dragon:
Choosing to persevere had been one of my better decisions as of late. As I read on, the tale improved vastly and almost before I realized it, I was hooked. It wasn't love at first sight, but the diverse cast of characters and the intriguing story line eventually drew me in. I'm glad this is a trilogy and I will be eagerly awaiting news of the next two releases. Well worth the read! 4/5 stars. - Bookplex
First in a trilogy, THE DEVIL'S DRAGON is a fascinating futuristic first contact story that challenges ideas about government, humanity and the fine line we walk between right and wrong. - IndieReader
Chapter 21: The Devil's Dragon
Ira Bilis stepped up to an awaiting shuttle, a lieutenant saluted her at the base of the landing ramp, she ignored this and walked past him to the top of the ramp, the loud clacking of her jack boots on the steel seemed to contradict her demure figure, she turned to regard the camp one last time, it was swarming with Aesini warriors, a small contingent of Paladins in defence formation were picking off any of the aliens who dared shoot at or make a rush toward their position.
She breathed in the carnage for a short time before regarding her junior officer with a smirk as he walked up to join her "It makes you feel alive doesn't it"? "Uh, yes ma'am".
"Is the shuttle loaded with what I ordered"?
"Yes ma'am, the storage containers have the trinkets that you selected from the local villages".
"I know what there are"! She tightened her grip on her riding crop, the familiar ominous leather on leather sound made him flinch. He knew that these cases of plunder was everything she had stolen from the Aesini, bracelets, earrings, fine fabrics, jewels, even some gold. He guessed that these spoils of war would fund her retirement.
"Give the order". She nodded to him who saluted, turned and barked to the small group of soldiers below. "Move out, go go go"! He made a wind up signal. "Yes LT"! They clamoured up the ramp and as it was closing, enemy bullets hit the steel door making a loud pinging sound. The shuttle took off with two dragonfly escorts, the last of the fighters that remained, the roar of its engines punctuated the tumult below, Nadija heard the turbulence and looked up to see the spectacle of the three ships taking off and shook her head with dismay. "She escaped didn't she"? Horx shared her conclusion.
"There are other ways to exact justice, the Gods will see to that". Seric sought to offer some comforting words, Nadija gave him a sinister grin "No, not the Gods, we will".
Seric gave her a look of displeasure and cleared his throat for a rebuttal; however, Nadija felt the need to supplement her thoughts.
"We don't have time to discuss the finer points of faith and philosophy my friend but suffice it to say, we are all made of stars and both of us are tiny insignificant life forms scuttling around under the same sun like microbes in a Petri dish, that makes us more or less the same under any God or Gods that you nominate, whether there is a God or Gods or not, whether we're here because of evolution only or evolution assisted by intelligent design from a higher power, it doesn't really matter in the end, I just do what I do because it makes me feel good".
"Doesn't really matter? Creation is not purely by chance look around you! We are the instruments of the Gods, some are called upon to carry out their will, others work against it merely to benefit themselves, most do nothing overall, I most certainly disagree with your simplistic assessment". Seric coughed with incredulity.
"That's your right, let's just keep moving". Horx wasn't inclined toward profound conversation at this point. "Wow Nadija that's kinda deep, here I was thinking you were just a soldier".
"No one's just anything Evan, what we are isn't nearly as important as who we are". Her eyes had a sparkle in them whenever she looked at him lately and it made his heart skip a beat. "To be continued over some noodles". He smiled, hoping she understood that noodles was a euphemism for so much more.
They ran down an embankment until they arrived at the main entrance to the camp, Seric took his temporary blanket robe off "I think we'll be safe here". He declared as he waved to a group of about a hundred Aesini, clearly this area at least was secure and although gun shots could still be heard in the distance, Nadija gestured for Horx to put his weapon away.
There were at least fifty Paladins squatted with their hands on their heads. As Seric was greeted by his fellow warriors, Nadija asked "You guys are taking prisoners?"
Seric glanced at the POWs and nodded "They can be used at the negotiating table, they will be treated with more kindness then you humans afforded us".
"Present company excluded, don't paint us all with the same brush". Nadija protested.
"Right, of course, I'm sorry it's just that whatever the outcome, prejudices will remain, so much damage has already been done".
An elderly warrior rode up atop a strider and peered down with a smile "Seric, the fact that you’re still alive proves that the Gods have a sense of humour".
"Chief Naid, the convert Nelson Jones is at the base hospital with Meaghan, we have to go rescue them". Nadija looked up to regard him.
"Lead the way then". Naid let out a whistle to summon a mank, when one appeared Alene's face was already on its belly.
"Nelson's at the infirmary with Meaghan". Naid reported.
"That area is in the middle, still unsecured, gather up your troops, I'll head in from the West, you take the south and we'll meet up there, the dragonflies have retreated to their mother ship for now, probably to resupply so we must act fast".
Naid saluted his daughter. "Alright, you heard your queen, move out"! And enthusiastic roar of approval erupted from the warriors as they swarmed up the alley that Seric and his entourage had just come from.
Nadija held out her hand to Horx to stop him and shook her head. "We've done enough fighting, let's find a safe area and see if your little experiment worked".
Horx nodded and turned on his tablet, scrolling through some menus, Wong's concerned face appeared on the screen. "Report Evan".
"Mission failed but I think we still have an outcome that may be to our advantage".
"I have heard that the Aesini have overrun the camp yes"?
"True enough, it's safe for you to meet up with us now, we'll be in guard post...". Horx looked up and saw some large numbers emblazoned on the side of a white tower, a single Aesini warrior was in position at the window. "... Sixteen".
"What will you be doing up there"? Wong cocked an eyebrow.
He glanced at Nadija who blushed. "Watching some TV" Horx smilled.
The atmosphere inside the shuttle was sombre, Resen had fallen to the enemy and the soldiers had their heads bowed with the shock and disappointment of defeat, except Bilis who strode up and down between them with her head held high, she gently tapped each of their knees with her riding crop to get their attention.
"Ladies and gentlemen". They all regarded her, including Botany who sat silently between the crates at the back of the cabin, almost unseen like he was part of her loot.
"We are now in space, about to dock with the command ship, despite appearances, we have not lost, this is part of a greater plan that the President has foreseen". She smiled menacingly.
"There is a moment of truth that is about to occur, a moment of reckoning that will determine the outcome of this struggle against the alien menace, I'm taking overall command of this mission to ensure final victory and I need to know if you are with me or against me, right now".
She peered into each of their eyes, one by one and in turn they answered "with you ma'am", "loyal and true", yes sir", "to the end", "now and forever".
She didn't bother with Botany; he sat there expressionless, silent in the shadows.
"Good, when the moment comes, I will give you the codeword "downfall", at that moment you will not hesitate to open fire on Admiral Reece, he has refused a direct order from the Central to fire upon the enemy which has now taken over the camp, once we take command
of the Gilly, we bomb the shit out of them, we do not tolerate weakness in the new era do you get me"?!
"We get you sir"!
When the shuttle landed in the main docking bay, Reece was there with a ceremonial compliment of troops to greet her, she was obviously outnumbered, now was not the right time.
"Major Ira Bilis, it's good to see that you made it out, I've been in contact with the President and have given him an update of the situation". She saluted Reece who returned in kind.
"Admiral, it was by the skin of my teeth that I escaped and the bravery of my Paladins shall not be forgotten, by the way it's General Bilis now". She turned to look at her troops and gave them a small smile.
"I didn't hear of this promotion, congratulations". His face had a sceptical expression.
"May we meet in private"?
"Of course, there is much to discuss". Reece gave a junior officer a nod who gave the order to dismiss the honour guard, as they marched off, Reece held out his hand for her to walk toward another exit which would eventually lead them to the ship's meeting room.
"You may dismiss your troops General; they've fought well and must be eager for R&R".
"They will have earned it before this day is over". She agreed, her pace was slow as they walked, it didn't occur to him that she was stalling for time, waiting until his troops had entirely left the docking bay before confronting him.
"Are you injured"? He feigned concern.
"Just fatigued sir, a little battered and bruised too". This was the truth.
When they got to the exit door, Reece's troops were finally gone but Bilis's contingent remained in formation behind her, Reece's face had a growing look of concern. "Dismiss your troops General or I will for you".
Reece went to grab his cylinder but Bilis put her hand on his wrist to stop him, the concerned expression now turned to alarm. "What the hell's going on Ira"?
Her troops now cocked their rifles and trained them on him.
"Oh my God".
"Admiral, I am taking over this mission, I would much prefer that you remain in command of the Gilgamesh and we'll pretend that this little awkward moment never happened as long as you acknowledge that I'm in charge overall".
"The president's in charge overall". He scowled at her. "And he has deemed me fit for command of the expeditionary forces, I am the Admiral you silly little girl"!
He regarded the soldiers behind her. "When you put on that uniform, you took a sacred oath to follow the proper chain of command put forth by the leader himself, put down your weapons, that's an order or you'll be in front of a firing squad"! He barked at them but they remained unmoved.
Bilis walked a circle around Reece, her riding crop twisting between her leather gloves at her back. "Reece, this is an opportunity for you to make things right, this is the turning point of this war, all you have to do is resume your post as fleet Admiral and follow my orders, the first being to bomb the crap out of the camp below and then Apolinya, is that understood"?
"I only follow orders from two people Ira, Jessie and Jacob, we've known each other for a long time, from the start, you know I can't change that, you know there is no compromise"!
"They're not here, they will never be here, this system belongs to us now and the only way we can rule it is with an iron fist, the outcast colonies will be a shinning beacon, an unreachable
outpost of the new era, an impregnable fortress, a utopia of strength and order defying a universe of chaos, I'm giving you the chance to be a part of that Adam, to revel in its glory!"
Her eyes sparkled with a maniacal intensity as she made a fist, Reece grimaced, she'd never called him by his first name before. "President Freeman ordered that I do not bomb the camp and withdraw the fighters, unlike you he values his personnel still down there". He looked at the troops in her entourage. "You are only here to forward her agenda, she's addicted to power, that's why Freeman held her back on a short leash, he knew she'd turn out like this, don't you see that"?
"He lies, last chance Reece, join me". She stared into his eyes at close range and for a moment he could see something he couldn't reconcile with his mind, it was fire blazing in her eyes, was it his fear playing tricks with his eyes?
"Never". He whispered.
Her troops raised their guns, ready to fire on her orders.
Reece slumped under a hail of bullets, dying in a pool of his blood he looked up at her standing over him.
"You're the devil". He managed to spit out before he closed his eyes and ceased to exist.
"No, I am the devil's dragon". She whispered to herself as she walked out of the hangar, her troops marching in formation behind her. "I am what the universe has made me". The doors closed behind her, only Botany remained, standing in the middle of the bay, alone, forgotten.
Meaghan lay on the operating table, coughing meekly and wheezing she stared into his eyes. "I love you Nelson".
"That's twice I've heard that today but you're the only one I wanted to hear it from". He held her cool hand tightly as the doctor applied anesthetic over her mouth and hooked her up to various machines.
"She's haemorrhaging; I've got to go in now". He muttered. The doctor was soaked in the blood of patients he'd worked on before her, his expression was frazzled.
"Save her doc".
"I can only play with the cards I'm dealt, the less you talk from now on the better so shut up".
Her eyes closed under the effect of the anaesthesia and the doctor proceeded to cut her open, he didn't even bother cleaning the equipment first.
Some minutes of silence passed as he worked furiously over her, the doctors face was obscured by his mask so Nelson watched his eyes, he didn't like what he saw, the eyes betrayed him, they looked increasingly less confident and Nelson's heart sank, tears welled in his eyes.
"Please doc, please save her, she's pregnant".
"You don't think I know that"?!
They heard shouting and shots being fired from outside the operating theatre and for a moment they looked at each other with trepidation, the doctor then returned to Meaghan and shook his head. "Looks like your war found its way here". He grumbled.
The doors swang open to the theatre, a few Aesini walked in and raised their weapons at them, Nelson stood up, his hands raised. "I'm done fighting".
A female stepped forward adorned in a purple cape. "Are you Nelson Jones"? To his surprise she could speak English.
He nodded, his hands still raised.
"Do you mind? I'm trying to save a life here"! The doctor bellowed.
"Two lives". Nelson tilted his head toward the doctor who shook his head regretfully, one of the machines made a flat line sound.
"No, just one now".
Nelson lowered his hands and turned to look over Meaghan, she was gone.
"Oh Jesus no, no no no, why God why"? His tears now flowed down his face as he sobbed over her, his expression grew dark. "Bring her back"!
The doctor shook his head, Nelson pulled out his pistol and raised it to the doctor "Bring her back, at least try, why don't you at least try"?!
Naid leaned over and grabbed his gun, wrenching it off him, Alene held him as he cried, he wasn't even aware that he was embracing the alien. Seric walked over and put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "Too much death has been seen today". Naid whispered.
The doctor continued to operate "I can save the child but she will need an incubator to survive, she's premature".
"Tell me where to find this incubator". Alene said.
"There's none on this mound of shit you call Resen, the only ones we have are on the capital ships, the Gilgamesh has one.
Nelson wiped his eyes and looked at the doctor "I'm sorry about my reaction doctor".
"I've seen worse, now, can you get me on that ship"?
He thought for a moment and shook his head regretfully. "No, I don't see how".
Alene stepped in front of him and looked into his eyes "Never lose hope Nelson, the Gods have determined that we meet for a reason".
"Who are you"?
"I am Alene, first Empress of the Great Tribe and I will lead all of us, human and Aesini alike to the path of righteousness".
Naid and Seric looked at each other and said in bemused unison "Empress"?
"This is my father Chief Naid and my good friend Seric".
They nodded and Nelson let out a slow exhale. "So, what now"?
"Now you need to name this child". A small cry could be heard behind them and they all turned to see a new born baby girl being cradled in the doctor’s arms, so tiny and fragile and Nelson let out a gasp, he couldn't believe his eyes. He walked over and held out his little finger, the baby's hand could feel it and grasped at it.
"Why this name"? Alene asked.
"That was the name of Meaghan's grandmother, she told me about her once, right about the time my daughter was conceived in fact". He smiled, recalling the moment of his short lived intimacy with Meaghan; it seemed so long ago now. "She lived in a better time, a better world, far from perfect but better".
"Then the birth of this child shall herald better times again". Alene declared.
"Touching, but she's only got a few hours to enjoy these better times unless we get her to an incubator and a proper hospital". The doctor growled.
About the Author
After completing two degrees, Jason F Boggs has spent over 25 years in the hotel industry where he experiences peoples' true natures - both good and bad, fertile ground for these stories. Jason currently lives on the Gold Coast in Australia with his wife SueEllen who patiently endures his imagination and their two cats, who do not.