The Great Insurrection Book 1: Warlord Born
My how the mighty have fallen. One of the most legendary warriors of all time, reduced to accepting help from the enemy.
“Odin” existed during certain times, those when death sprang from the Titan’s hands like water from a fountain. The rest of the time, he was Alistair Kane. After his fall, he was no one. He existed in a world that no one else could see, one of intense pain and nothing else. No knowledge of where or who he was. No knowledge of the past and no hope for the future. There was simply pain.
He didn't know how long he was in that place, but toward the end, he started to hear voices.
Alistair couldn't make out what they said. His mind couldn't piece together what any of it meant. He only knew that it was different from the pain.
Next, he saw a jumble of light, blue and purple, some white. Words, noises, lights.
Until he woke up.
He felt the sting of the slap before he knew what was happening.
“Wake up,” a gruff voice commanded. “Wake up.”
Smack. Flesh on flesh, the mark of the slap red across his face.
Alistair blinked, once, twice, and then peered into the world. The lights were bright on his eyes, and he kept them narrowed. People stood on both his left and right, but their faces were blurred by Dimmers. They looked pixelated and dark.
“Who are you?” Alistair said, though his throat was on fire and he didn't know how clear his words had come out.
The man on the left responded, “Your guardian angels.”
Alistair groaned. No citizen in the Commonwealth would talk about such an ancient concept. He had thought life could get no worse, with Control issuing his death sentence. Now he had somehow been kidnapped by Subversives. How many of them had he killed? How many had he Clipped who were now in cryo? He couldn't count the number if he had untold lifetimes.
Alistair knew what came next: torture. Perhaps years of it, until he had told them everything he knew about Control and the Commonwealth. Until he had made things up that had never existed and never could, but he would say them anyway just to make the torture stop. Alistair had seen Subversive victims before, or at least what was left of them.
“Kill me,” he whispered.
The man on the left nodded. “Would if I could, Bub, but it's out of my hands.”
The man on the right waved a needle in front of Alistair's face. “We need you to wake up, so I'm going to give you a stim. You ever had a stim before?”
Alistair groaned again, turning his head against the pillow. He didn't know what the man was saying and didn't care. His legs, his chest—everything was on fire as if someone had doused him in gasoline before tossing a match on him.
“Going to feel like someone put a mechheart in your chest,” the man said as he continued waving the needle in front of Alistair's face. “You may want to try and attack us, thinking you can get out of here.” He looked at the bottom of the bed Alistair lay on. “Your legs don't work no more. They're fragged, and your lungs are only pumping because of this.” He tapped a machine to Alistair's right, something he hadn't noticed.
The man on the left spoke up. “So don't try anything, Bub. If we wanted you dead, you would be, comprende?”
Alistair said nothing, still not understanding what was happening around him. The needle glistened in the light as it rose into the air. The man holding it spoke once more. “We're hitting your heart with it because we need you wide awake. You won't feel a thing, though, so don't worry.”
Alistair barely had time to register what the man was saying before the needle plunged into his chest. If he'd thought he was in pain before, he'd been wrong. Very wrong.
Fire lit across his chest plate as the needle cut through bone, then punctured his heart. The man pressed the button on the side of the syringe, and the stimulant rushed into Alistair. His eyes sprang wide, his mouth opening into a scream that didn't come out. He realized he had no air in his lungs. He couldn't breathe. He sat up, pain breaking out across his lower body, hands grasping at the air.
The man on the left leaned over and swatted him hard on the back.
His lungs opened, and air rushed into them. Relief washed over Alistair. He fell back in the gurney-like chair. The pain in his chest was still there but fading. His eyes focused on his surroundings, years of training taking over without any effort. A light overhead, the rest of the room dark. A single door to his right. Man on his left wore no armor, but there was some kind of small plasma weapon holstered on his hip.
Alistair tried turning around to see the man behind him.
“Don't strain yourself, Bub.” The man walked around to the front of the chair, turning off the Dimmer over his head. “I'm not hiding from you, and I don't care if you see my face. You can't trade information with anyone on Earth any longer. Go ahead and tell Control you know who I am. It won't save your life.”
Alistair understood now, the stim working on his brain as well as his body. He said nothing, knowing these people were Subversives. There'd be no help here. He tried sitting up again, but the man on the right slammed him back down. “Nuh-uh, Bub. Right where you are is where you shall stay. Now listen to me, and listen closely. Him and me?” He pointed between him and the other guy. “We're the only two things that are keeping you alive right now. Personally, I think this is the worst decision I've ever seen, but I don't got much say in it.”
He took a step back and pointed at the door. “Out there is a ship waiting on you. Its only goal is to get you off this planet and out to the furthest reaches of the solar system. As close to safety as you're going to find, now that your life is forfeit. But, Bub, we don't force anyone to do anything. I won't put you on that ship if you don't want to go, so you have to decide if you want to stay on this rock or go to another. You stay here, you'll never see my face again. You'll never see his face again.” He nodded at his partner. “We'll wheel you out of here, and then you're on your own. Comprende?”
Alistair was taking every word in, understanding it all after the stim. He glanced at the door, wishing he could get up, but he'd seen his legs, which were mangled and completely unusable.
Luna, he thought. If he left, she was lost to him forever.
The man on the left snapped his fingers in front of Alistair's face. “Listen up, Bub. Time is short. Like, real short. Your former friends are searching for you. They aren't gonna stop any more than they stop when they hunt me and mine down. You go to the ship or you…” He looked down at the wreckage of Alistair's body. “See how far you can run on the things you used to call legs.”
Alistair laid his head back on the chair and closed his eyes. How had he gotten here? How was this his life?
The thought that made up his mind was a simple one: If I stay, I'm dead. No Luna. If I leave, maybe there's a chance I see her again.
It was the silliest of thoughts, one that ignored a galactic empire, a thousand years of law, and the fact that he was now a broken man. Yet the thought possessed him like a virus, rapidly taking over his mind and decision-making capability. Without opening his eyes, he said, “I'll go.”
There were a few moments of silence, which caused Alistair to open his eyes. The two men were staring at each other, and Alistair realized that neither of them had thought he would agree. “What is this all about? Why are you helping me?”
The man on the right stepped away from the chair and behind Alistair. When he came back into view, he was holding a gray blanket. “The reason you're in this mess, Odin of the Titan Legion, is because you saved some of ours. The AllMother knows you did, and it means she owes you a debt. The AllMother pays her debts, no matter the cost. Apparently, even if it means saving a cockroach monster like yourself. Don't mistake either of us here. We don't like you. I'd kill you now if I could, but that's not my decision to make.” He took a step closer and lifted the blanket. “This is what's going to happen. I'm throwing this over you, and we're walking out of this building. You're not to move because you're a corpse, and we're transferring you. We've got the paperwork in order, so unless you rise from the dead, this shouldn't be a problem.”
The one on the left, the man not holding the blanket, leaned close to Alistair's face. “If you do decide to rise, thinking you can somehow save your skin by turning us in, I'm going to slit your throat faster than you and your pretty Whip can possibly imagine.”
At the mention of his Whip, Alistair's hand automatically moved to his side, where it was always kept.
“Don't worry, Titan,” the man whispered. “We've got it. The AllMother said to keep it for you. Now lay the fuck down, so I don't have to look at you anymore.”
Whatever they were doing for Alistair, it wasn't out of love. Their faces held nothing but hate and disgust; they would murder him if they were allowed. Alistair laid his head back down on the chair, and the man on the right pressed a button, allowing the top portion to recline backward.
They draped the gray blanket over him, then the gurney started to move.
Alistair listened with ears that had been trained to detect the slightest danger. He heard every turn of the wheels below him, as well as the footfalls of the men pushing him. He listened for words and other noises, anything that might give him a clue as to where he was. He didn't have any idea how being a corpse was going to get him on an interstellar flight. Off-world body transfers did happen when all of someone's relatives had left Earth, but now? During a manhunt?
The man had lied to Alistair about one thing. They hadn’t just given him a stim, at least not the normal kind. His brain was alert, but his body felt numb, so some kind of speedball was in effect. Alistair could only hope they'd gotten the dosage correct.
The gurney came to a stop. Alistair's breathing was as slow as he could make it. This was something Titans trained for, and he was the best at it, with virtually complete control over his bodily functions. All the same, corpses didn't breathe, and if anyone looked at the wrong moment, there wouldn’t be a whole lot he could do.
The man who’d called him “Bub” spoke first. “Off-world, Mars.”
“Approval orders?” The voice was stern, no-nonsense, and Control wouldn't have it any other way. Interstellar travel was constantly used by Subversives, and they often used interdimensional travel. They all had to start here in the third dimension. Thus, Control made sure only the most detailed-oriented Commonwealth servants were placed in positions to monitor it.
“Here,” the man who'd held the syringe said. Alistair knew he was handing over a DataTrack. It would have all the necessary approvals and orders to get them through—or it wouldn't, and all hell would break loose.
Seconds passed, and Alistair could feel the drugs' effects starting to wane. He wasn't worried about brain fog or anything of that nature, but rather, the pain in his legs. He remembered, or at least thought he did, them saying something about his lungs, that they weren't working anymore either. He didn't know about that, but he knew they had to quickly get him somewhere with solitude.
Even his mastery of his body wasn't going to be able to shove this kind of pain away.
He tried to think of his wife, to focus on her face, on her laugh. He tried to think of the way she smiled when she was teasing him, the little curvature of her lip as it pulled up. The way her eyes sparkled when she knew her wit was quicker, and he wouldn't be able to tease back fast enough to matter.
“Is there a problem?”
The question pulled Alistair from his thoughts. He thought Bub had asked it, but he wasn't sure.
“Problem?” the immigration agent responded, his voice sounding like he wasn't used to being challenged, but he was up to it all the same.
“Yeah, Bub, problem. I come and go through Immigration at least three times a year, sometimes more if I'm not going interplanetary. I've never seen anyone take this long over a simple body transfer, and from what I hear on the holosphere, there's a war zone downtown. So yeah, is there a problem? I need to get this body on ice before it starts smelling.”
The pain was growing, and Alistair's need for oxygen was increasing.
“If there's a problem,” the immigration agent said, “it sounds like it's your problem. You'll wait until I'm ready to let you go.”
Alistair's ability to think was fading, his body's need for morphoids and oxygen surpassing anything else.
“Let me see the body.” The immigration agent stood up.
One of the men sighed. “You've got to be kidding me.”
Alistair's heart rate didn't increase, nor did his breathing, but he didn't know how he was going to fake looking dead. Pallor, skin suppleness, and a dozen other things separated a dead body from a live person, none of which Alistair could manipulate.
Someone grabbed the corner of the blanket, and lifted. Alistair knew his naked body was visible to all. He kept his eyes closed, his breath held inside his chest, hoping against all odds that somehow he wouldn't be recognized. That somehow his damned face wasn’t plastered on every holowall in the city.
One of Alistair's men asked, “He look dead enough for ya?”
“Cover ‘im up,” the immigration agent instructed. “You're cleared.”
The blanket flipped back over Alistair's body and the gurney started moving again. The shot they gave him must have done something to his outer body as well as his inner, but he couldn’t consider that right now. Alistair waited for a few minutes, then whispered, “Need stim.”
“What you need,” someone answered from above, “is to not say another word. We're not out of the woods yet.”
Alistair's hand bore down on the metal beneath him to keep from screaming as the wreckage of his legs demanded to be heard.
More long minutes passed, then Alistair felt cold air wash over his body. The gurney stopped moving, the blanket was removed, and before he knew what was happening, someone new was stabbing a needle in his arm. Alistair gritted his teeth for a second and felt the soothing morphoid flood his system.
He looked up at a new man, who had a thick beard. “Thank you.”
The beard looked at the two men who had wheeled him here. “The AllMother has lost her damned mind.”
Alistair tried to keep his eyes open, but he couldn't. Really, that wasn't so bad because unconsciousness had become preferable to sleep.
These men definitely have a point, if Odin had indeed killed as many of their comrades as he says, then why are they helping him at all. The AllMother must have something very interesting planned. The Great Insurrection Book 1: Warlord Born is available for pre-order now, and will be loaded to all devices on February 16, 2021. I know it's difficult to wait, but keep an eye out because another snippet is coming your way.