Indomitable (Chronicles of Promise Paen #2) - W. C. Bauers
Thanks to Lt. Col. Gary Foster, U.S. Army (Ret.); Cmdr. Mark Gabriel, USN (Ret.); and SSgt. Stephen Smith, U.S. Army. To John Duff, for your friendship and encouragement. To Evan Ladouceur for continuity and support. To my agent, Cherry Weiner, for keeping me grounded. To my editor, Marco Palmieri, and to Tor Books. To Stephan Martiniere for incredible cover art. To my family and friends for their ongoing support. To the freedom-loving women and men in uniform across the globe who stand in the gap.
IF I AM NOT FOR ME, THEN WHO IS FOR ME? BUT IF I AM ONLY FOR ME, THEN WHAT AM I?
—Moses Maimonides, twelfth-century teacher of the Torah, Pre-Diaspora
YOU MAY NOT BE INTERESTED IN WAR, BUT WAR IS INTERESTED IN YOU.
—Leon Trotsky, Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist, Pre-Diaspora
THE TRUE SOLDIER FIGHTS NOT BECAUSE HE HATES WHAT IS IN FRONT OF HIM, BUT BECAUSE HE LOVES WHAT IS BEHIND HIM.
—G. K. Chesterton, twentieth-century poet and philosopher, Pre-Diaspora
APRIL 14TH, 92 A.E., STANDARD CALENDAR, 0545 HOURS
REPUBLIC OF ALIGNED WORLDS PLANETARY CAPITAL—HOLD
MARINE CORPS CENTRAL MOBILIZATION COMMAND
A round the size of Promise’s trigger finger hit her like a maglev. It tore through her mechsuit and mushroomed in her chest, just above her heart. Miraculously, it didn’t go off. Promise stumbled backward and off the cliff’s face, into thousands of meters of darkness. Neuroinhibitors flooded her system almost as fast as the pain. This is it flashed across her mind as her body flatlined. Tomorrow I’m hero-dead.
Her vision grayed out and she lost all feeling in her hands and feet.
Promise rag-dolled in her mechsuit … fell and fell and fell, perilously close to the cliff’s face. Her heel caught an outcropping several hundred meters below. Her AI, Mr. Bond, sealed the hole in her chest, and patched and packed it with cauterizing goo. Then Bond isolated the round kissing her heart in a null field, in case it decided to go off on its own timetable. Removing it was out of the question, and beyond the mechsuit’s capabilities. A Marine Corps cutter would have to brave that. And there were more pressing matters to attend to. Her heart had stopped beating.
The mechsuit intubated her and zapped her pumper. One, two, three … six times before her heart’s arteries and connective tissues remembered how to work in concert. A single stroke came followed by another, and then a stable thrum thrum thrum. Promise gasped, and came to. Her heads-up display blared with error messages she couldn’t process. Her ears weren’t discriminating sounds. Her body felt disemboweled, as if someone had ripped her soul clean out and now someone else was trying to stuff it back in but the fit was wrong. Insert leg there. No, not there, there. The tube down her throat was the worst violation. Mercifully, Bond pulled it out.
“SITREP,” Promise said, the words a faint, hoarse whisper.
“You’re in an uncontrolled descent. There’s an armor-piercing explosive round in your chest.”
“Is the APER hot?”
Promise exhaled, blinked hard, but still couldn’t make sense of her HUD.
“Today is a bad day to die.” Her voice was stronger now, the sky a starless void. “Why aren’t my lamps on?”
“Stand by,” said Bond at the same time that her proximity alarm howled.
Promise’s forward lamps lit several milliseconds later. She gasped, and threw her hands out in front of her, which sent her tumbling backward end over end. Meters away, the rock face somersaulted in and out of view.
“Could … have … warned … me,” she said through clenched teeth. Down became up became down until she couldn’t tell the difference between them anymore.
“I tried, Lieutenant.” Bond sounded mildly put out. “Tuck your arms to your sides. I’ll right you.”
Her mechsuit’s ailerons bit into the wind, stopped the tumble, and reoriented her: head down, feet up, knifing toward the watery deck. The distance opened between her and the wind-carved face at her six o’clock.
“Twenty-five hundred meters.”
“There’s an island up ahead, ten degrees to starboard, three klicks out. Because of the headwind, you’ll cover one-point-three klicks before splashing down.”
That means a long swim … if I survive impact. “Comm the gunny.”
“Your comm is out. The APER pulsed when it hit you, and the pulse knocked out most of your systems, including your heart. My secondary shielding held. You’ve lost weapons, scanners, countermeasures, braking thrusters, and the gravchute. You’re going to hit hard.”
“… Of my armor? You’ve got to be kidding.”
“You tweaked my personality chip to make that impossible, ma’am.” Bond sounded a bit too sure of itself for