Extensive trials followed the development of the Copper virus, and these yielded what was now categorized as the Delta through Mu dynamics.
These early trials led to the first mass release on the tiny outer-reaches planet, Adora3, a mining planet with a high military presence.
The Copper virus does not work as if given a blank slate. It takes what is offered in the individuals DNA and encourages it to flourish. The first Alpha dynamics manifested within days. Untrained and unchecked, the results were devastating. They were revealed among the strongest, mentally and physically, and many occupied positions of power within the government, business, military, and the police.
Knowing the observers from the Empire’s governing council would destroy them, and the whole planet if necessary, they took action.
All too easily, the virally altered inhabitants of Adora3 infected the next world.
Doctor Lillian Brach
They didn’t have an Alpha in mind when they designed the cabins on hop-ships. The bed was too narrow and too short and boxed in at all sides but the opening, leaving no opportunity to drape.
The rest of the cabin wasn’t much better: a tiny chair and table, and a door that I had to duck to get through.
I tolerated it; barely.
When bleeping signified an incoming communication, I was grateful for the distraction.
“You’re being redirected,” General Sherwin said.
The Alpha was a great bear of a man with a moon face and sharp eyes that missed absolutely nothing. Knowing this, I kept my face carefully neutral. “Details?”
“I’ll have them sent through. An ore processing plant is under attack. Single ship and a dozen Uncorrupted soldiers. They had already picked off three members of the local security team when we lost coms. You’re the closest help we have. I’ve notified the hop-ship crew to prepare the shuttle.”
The Uncorrupted was a faction formed by those who fled the Empire during the first mass viral awakening. We had been at war for centuries. They wanted to eradicate everyone associated with the virus; we aimed to stop them.
Rumors circulated that they had captured someone of importance. They were just that, rumors. Whatever the reasons, the conflict had escalated over the last decade. Fringe colonies had always been at risk from Uncorrupted attacks, but now the outer planets were falling prey to the violence. The Empire’s protection had once spanned over many sectors, systems and planets. The Uncorrupted attacks were increasing and the Empire’s safe zone diminishing.
“I’m on my own here,” I said because I wasn’t sure what he was expecting from me. I’d been injured in the last op, and with no Healer on hand, I’d been delayed for a week while my body repaired the natural way. Which was how I ended up here on a hop-ship with a tiny crew that included no one else with combat training.
“I know,” he said, face somber. “But there are over a hundred workers on that base, and the accompanying colony includes thirteen children. The governing council publicly announced increased safety for mining and related operations last week. We’ve not had a chance to implement the changes yet. It’s hard enough getting people out there. We can’t afford for this to go south, Harper.”
There was no such thing as a ‘happy’ operation, but this was borderline insane. I didn’t even have my armor or weapons with me. Some fuckwit had bundled my gear with that belonging to the rest of my team—they’d left ahead of me and so had my kit.
“I’ll get it done,” I said, although I didn’t have a clue how. “How long until I leave?”
“Ten,” the general replied.
I nodded. There was nothing I could say. I was an Alpha, they expected me to work it out. Didn’t matter how.
“We’re counting on you,” he said, and his watery blue eyes hardened before the communication closed out.
“Great.” I muttered to myself. “He’s expecting me to die.”
Pivoting, I hit the door release to my tiny cabin and stalked out into the ship’s corridor. I nearly bowled over the captain who’d been waiting on the other side of the door.
“Captain?” I said setting her back on her feet and stalking past her toward the shuttle bay. The rest of the ship, like the cabin, was designed for people with less bulk, and the springy metal floor bounced under my footsteps.
The captain trailed along in my wake. “We don’t have your equipment,” she said, jogging to keep pace. “The crew members are scrambling to see what they can find that might be useful, but this is a medical hop-ship, and we don’t carry weapons.”
“I’ll manage,” I said.
At the dock I found the entire crew waiting beside the shuttle. Laid out on the floor was a collection of equipment and parts…and what at a glance appeared to be a flare gun.
Fuck me, I was going to die with a stowage bracket in one hand and a flare gun in the other.
I took a deep breath and surveyed the booty. I picked up the flare gun because it was worth one good shot. Then I tested the weight of the other items. I didn’t recognize most of them, but a long thin pole with a hook at the end had a decent weight and length. I thought it might do some damage, assuming I could get close.
“This will have to do,” I said. When I glanced up seven stony faces greeted me. Even the normally stolid captain had a notable glisten in her eyes.
Great, I thought. They are all expecting me to die. “Shuttle programmed?”
“Yes, sir,” the technician said, then added tentatively, “Good luck.”
My lips twitched. “Thanks, I fucking need it.”
With those parting words, I boarded the shuttle, strapped myself in and got ready for the ride.
The good luck stuck with me long enough to get off the shuttle, and that was where it dried up. I’d had a quick glance at the plans and had the rough layout of the processing plant memorized. It was a vast open cavern surrounded by a maze of corridors. I would miss the benefits of my helmet visuals, but I had enough to orientate myself.
As I dropped out of the ship, two enemy soldiers burst through the dock entrance.
They were too close and heavily armored. The flare gun would likely hurt me more than them at this range.
I threw it.
Not knowing what I was throwing, they both instinctively jumped back. It gave me an opening, and I charged them at a full run. The first one got the ‘hook’ of my improvised cosh. I put all my considerable strength into it knowing I didn’t have time for a second strike. His face cracked, blood splattered, and his entire body crashed into the wall.
I had the second by the throat and took him down in a single, fluid motion. His shot clipped my shoulder sending a searing wave of pain. Pumped with adrenaline, I barely noticed. I had ripped his helmet off and beaten his face to a pulp with it before I realized what I had done.
Pausing, I took stock. No sounds of others rushing to their aid, but they had communicators, so their companions would be warned.
As I collected their weapons, I decided that my chances of success were now marginally better than impossible.
I didn’t get far down the corridor before I heard the screams. They were the kind of screams I associated with torture.
I’d never been one for playing with my prey. If someone needed killing, I killing them. If you needed someone to make them talk, I wasn’t the best man for the job. Too heavy-handed, Hudson, my Team leader, would say. Inevitably, I broke them. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t be gentle, more that I couldn’t find the motivation for anything short of brutal when it came to Uncorrupted scum.
There were two waiting at the door when I rounded the corner, and I shot them both before they could do more than twitch.
The screaming stopped, but I was already charging down the corridor. I grabbed up the nearest body—which weighed a fucking ton—and used it as a shield as I plowed through the door.
Inside, was the plant security observation room. Floor to ceiling windows filled the side opposite the door, providing a sweeping view of the processing plant. Two of the local security, both Betas, had been strapped to swivel chairs; faces swollen and bloody. At least they had held out this long, and that gave me hope that the colonists were still safe.
Weapons trained my way, and the armored body in front of me danced about under the blasts. I shoved it into the nearest soldier, shot the next dead center in the chest from point-blank range. As the first was still falling, I kicked the legs out from under a third man.
The room degenerated into chaos.
The security guard on the right rammed his head into the soldier standing over him. The seat toppled, and the soldier went down with it.
I shot the soldier still grappling under the body in the head, then the one I’d downed. I dragged a body up in time to collect the next barrage of shots, but one clipped my thigh and I stumbled.
I shot the fuckers kneecaps out as I staggered back to my feet, throwing the body forward and knocking another soldier over. The security guards were screaming—everyone still alive was screaming. Except me, I was too busy killing.
Two tried to run. I shot them both in the back of the head. Then I finished off those still writhing about on the floor.
“How many?” I demanded.
“Twelve,” the security guard still seated said, breathing heavily.
I did a quick body count as I dragged his downed colleague back to a seated position and cut through the ties. “Good,” I said. “Looks like I’ve gotten them all…Civilians and workers?”
“Safe,” he said. “Behind the drop door. I don’t think I could have held out much longer. If you hadn’t—”
“Hey.” I put my hand on his shoulder. “You did good. You both did good…Let me do a sweep of the base, and then you can let everyone out.”
The one on the right started making a choking sound. Shock or injury, it was hard to tell. “Don’t fucking die on me,” I muttered. His colleague was in a bad way, but he stumbled out of the chair and grabbed the medical kit as I lowered the man to the ground.
It took us five minutes to stabilize him. After, I checked the base, checked their ship, notified command, and then we finally let the colonists out.
“So, you’re a hero now?” Hudson asked, one eyebrow raised like he was having trouble believing it. He might be my Team leader, but he was still a fucker sometimes.
The spaceport bar was noisy and crowded. After all the attention that had surrounded the processing plant incident, I was happy to blend into this nice corner booth.
The music was quieter in the dim corner where we sat, but on the other side it was thumping. Strobe-lights flashed over a stage where dancers put on the kind of show that didn’t leave a lot to the imagination.
“Apparently so,” I replied not bothering to hide my smirk. “They’ve recommended that I apply for the next Singular protection.” Singulars were rare Omegas with unique traits known as singularities. Predominantly psychic, although other physical or physiological changes did occur. Such skills were useful in the war, and despite the physical limitations of the Omega dynamic, they were invariably deployed. Hence they allocated them protection—a Controller.
“Yes, I endorsed it,” Hudson said. “You only have to fight once and then you’ll be on recall.”
“I don’t mind the fighting part,” I said, grinning and taking a slug of my beer. “I don’t mind what comes after, either. Still, Singulars are a bit of an unknown.”
Hudson rolled his eyes. “The next thing you know, you’ll be bonded.”
“Nah. I like variety. What’s not to like about variety?”
“I’m just saying, there’s more risk with a Singular, ” Hudson said. “And I like variety too.”
I laughed so hard I nearly choked on my drink. “No you don’t. You like petite brunettes, which is why you only fuck curvy blondes.”
Scowling, Hudson snatched up his beer from the table. “It’ll be a good experience for the team,” he said in a blatant change of subject. “And I give that you deserve a little joy after managing to pull that off with nothing but a flare gun. You never did like to do things the easy way.”
“I also had some sort of hooked, widget thing,” I said seriously. “I’d have been fucked if it wasn’t for that.”
Hudson surprised me by chuckling; he was a miserable bastard most of the time. He took a bit of getting used to, but I’d been in his team for ten years so it was reasonable to assume I was happy with my lot.
“Are you going to enter the next selection, then?”
I nodded. “Yes, already signed up. Now I just have to survive three days.”
Hudson knocked back the last of his beer, and stood, dumping the empty bottle on the table. “You’ll manage it. Think of it as a training session with benefits.” His lips twitched in the Hudson version of a smile, and patting my shoulder, he left.
“Have you been on an Andromeda class before, Eloise?” the recruiting officer asked.
He was a brusque man, and our prior conversations had been kept to the bare facts. Today was no exception.
Kix4 was the largest military base within our Empire. When I arrived a few hours ago, over a hundred vessels of various sizes had docked within the vast, circular structure of its orbiting port. And the Andromeda class was the most prominent within this impressive collective.
“No,” I replied. The ship, while daunting, was the least of my concerns.
There was a war, and people with skills were deployed as and how it suited that cause. I was an Omega, there were very few of us, and we could make all the difference to the delicate balance of power. A gift or a curse? I had heard both sides of the argument.
I had yet to land on a firm opinion, but I expected that to change soon.
My parents were ordinary people, my father a counselor and my mother a logistical scheduler. If the Copper virus did not host, the individual remained unaltered, also known as a non-dynamic. The virus hadn’t hosted for either of them, and they’d hoped for the same for me. On my eighteenth birthday, they’d held a double celebration thinking the virus had passed me by.
There were twelve viral induced dynamics, Alpha through to Mu. Each dynamic offered a different skill. Not all were useful to the war, but many were. Recruiters under the direction of our governing council, allocated the dynamics to positions as required.
Omega were the last and final dynamic. The more common Omegas would reveal by eighteen. Singular Omegas had unique traits—singularities—and these might take another two years.
I was nineteen when the changes began. When the test results came through, my mother broke down and cried.
“You will be protected,” the recruiter said. As if that statement would make me feel better. I had trained for this; trained hard. So many physical tests my body had endured just to meet the basic requirements. I was still weak compared to even the lowliest soldier, but I was an Omega and would be deployed regardless.
Hence the protection.
“It will work better if you invest in the relationship,” the recruiter continued.
Invest. What he meant was intimacy in every sense of the word.
His grin had taken on a smarmy aspect that I hadn’t noticed before, and I brought my mental shield up to block his foul presence out.
“We were inundated with applications even after we restricted it to Alphas. They didn’t even know what you looked like, but that’s probably a good thing. Had no option but to let them fight it out—not that any of them complained about the selection approach. You won’t need to worry about protection. No one is going to challenge the one who came out on top of that.”
I wished he had remained…less chatty. “An Alpha?”
I had once been much enamored with the idea of Alphas and Omegas, had thought it romantic in a childish sort of way. I had even seen a few such pairings from a distance and had been fascinated by the way the Alpha appeared so protective of the tiny Omega. Those views of the elite world were fleeting. All dynamics held a certain privilege, but Alphas were at the top whether they became soldiers or not.
My parents were non-dynamics, and our home was situated in a region that no dynamic of any kind would visit unless extremely lost. My parents wanted no part of that world, considered it ungodly and corrupt and feared for my mortal soul when they discovered I had revealed.
Many non-dynamic families wept with joy when their children revealed, thinking it was an opportunity for a better life. My parents had wept tears of devastation.
I remained the object of the recruiter’s unwelcome interest. “You’re a Singular,” he said as if this were explanation enough.
Maybe it was. As a Singular, my skills were unique. I was valuable, and they wouldn’t want me to be damaged. Everyone was infected with the Copper virus. If it hosted it would alter your DNA, but that didn’t always happen, and even if it did, it might take several years before the dynamic revealed.
The virus gave benefits to some, but for Omegas those benefits came with unpleasant consequences.
“But even so, changes are coming,” the recruiter said. “Where possible, we are already assigning all control positions to Alphas. It pays to stay ahead of policy.”
There were rumors of policy changes, but this was the first tangible mention of it outside the Omega community. We had little enough rights, and I worried that these changes would take more.
Investment was natural, or so my mentor had explained. Omegas were altruistic and submissive, and this did not mix well with deployment. Better that we yield all judgment to a Controller and apparently, intimacy made for better control.
No one had consulted me when they made this decision, it had all been established long before I was born. That such information was kept a secret from the non-dynamic communities told me that it was wrong. After that first conversation on the subject, a few days after I revealed as Omega, I had refused further lessons. Investment wasn’t mandatory, and I saw no point in learning more.
“Yes, you caused quite a stir, more than Healers, and they’re always popular because they're so free with their investment. It’s seen as a real career boon having a Singular protection detail on your portfolio. Even without the investment guarantee, many would take a shot at it for that alone. Still, we do strongly recommend that you invest.”
“I understand that it’s recommended,” I said, hoping to stem his comprehensive information share. Although I didn't understand, not really. Investment was a complex consideration. One I intended to ignore.
“Good,” he said decisively. “They don’t benefit a recruiter with the details of the operation, but it’s been classified as critical.” He indicated his information tablet. “Critical to the war,” he added as if there were any possibility that I might have misunderstood.
The Copper virus had been the catalyst for the war. Many fled the initial mass viral infection program, and the Uncorrupted movement formed. There were those within our society who still did not agree with the viral program. They fought for change, for choices, but some also left the Empire, living in the fringe worlds where they swelled the Uncorrupted ranks every year.
“I’ll notify him you’re on the way, and you can get settled on the ship. It’s not long until launch, but he’s been jumping colonies for the last ten years, and he knows his way around this class of ship.”
Nerves fluttered in my stomach. My allocated Controller was older than I expected, and although I should have been delighted with an experienced Controller, fresh worries surfaced about the final test.
A test I must pass.
I had never heard of an Omega failing, no matter their skills. My Controller wouldn’t let me fail, would he? What happened if I did?
I frowned. “What happens if I fail?”
Why had no one mentioned failure? Why had I never thought to ask?
The recruiter stared blankly for several seconds, and then he laughed long and hard. “He’s an Alpha.” He pointed to his information tablet, which I could not read from here. “Logan Harper.”
I shook my head in confusion. Was I supposed to recognize the name or merely swoon because he was an Alpha? Although there was something vaguely familiar about the name now that I considered it. The source of this familiarity eluded me.
Chuckling, he tapped the console on his desk before he stood and indicated the opening door. “He won’t let you fail, Eloise.”
My mind went blank. That didn’t happen often. Usually, there was a maelstrom swirling around in there.
Lost under this mindless cloud, I trailed after him, along the empty white corridor, through a security checkpoint, and on to one of many access bays. In the other bays, there would be queues of personnel, but I was a Singular and my status afforded me a more civilized induction for the boarding part of the process.
Silent security bots flashed us through until we arrived at the final gate.
Beyond was the ship.
“Safe journey.” The recruiter smiled and offered his hand.
Bracing myself, I passed through the final gate.
There had been a strange notion that I would find chaos on the other side, but what I found was another stark white room.
My allocated Controller was standing with his back to me, looking out a wide portal window that offered a spectacular view of the Andromeda class ship’s starboard side. The ship was a thing of beauty, vast, gleaming and built for war.
The man standing before it was also built for war, and in that sharp moment of awareness, I acknowledge that he was a thing of deadly beauty too.
I had heard Alphas had a presence. He definitely had a presence. Maybe it was part of the training or merely pervasive to the kind of soldiers who went on to reach elite status.
End of Sample