NotOneWordAn excerpt from
Not One Word
by James Daniel Ross

(From the Chronicles of the Radiation Angels)

My name is Todd Rook.

I was a Corporal in The Radiation Angels.

I was running for my life.

In my small rucksack was an avalanche drive, a one kilo mini-computer containing seven hundred terabytes of ‘liberated’ data. It contained enough evidence to finally put an end to court battles across this world. Worth thousands of years in prison for some, and trillions of credits in legal awards for others, it felt as heavy as a corpse in my pack. I shouldn’t complain, I suppose, it was about all I was carrying anymore. I had been running forever, buildings slipping into shadow on every side, my lungs burning like a coal fire deep inside a mountain. I didn’t know exactly what was on the avalanche drive, but it was obvious that the previous owners of the data were willing to kill a lot of people to get it back; including me. Especially me.

Bricks disintegrated over my head as steel-jacketed lead ripped through the air. I dove to the ground, thankful for the helmet that kept the refuse cluttering the alley from piling up in my mouth as I slid into the detritus. Broken bottles shredded the cosmetic outer layers of my armored jumpsuit like a witch’s claws. One shard of glass sliced through the strap on my rifle and it slipped away into the debris. I reached for it and veered into a trashcan. I rolled over just as engines shrieked overhead, venting superheated exhaust down upon me. From the mouth of the alley a massive, mirrored cockpit stared at me like the accusing eye of a god. The man behind the windshield must have smiled as he squeezed his trigger unleashing a Wide, fiery maw that spit a lead rain from his wing-mounted guns. In the tight confines of the alley, the sound was deafening. The buildings on either side of the alley erupted into clouds of dust. I screamed.

I scrambled blindly for my rifle, unable to look away from the two-ton air vehicle that was trying to kill me. My gloved hands closed around the stock and brought the weapon up to my shoulder as the clouds billowed out and all but obliterated the flier from view. I sighted along the rifle and jammed down the trigger. Bullets snapped from the barrel, recoil punching the stock into my shoulder as I yanked down on the front end to keep the weapon on target. I barely heard the high-frequency cracks of shattering glass over the sounds of Armageddon all around me. The noise seemed to go on forever, echoing in the alley and inside my soul. At the same instant my rifle clicked empty, the pilot stopped firing, and the jetwash of the four vertical engines cleared the clouds of brick dust.

There he was, hovering ten meters away, seven meters up. His windshield was scarred and cracked from my salvo, with a few small holes that had missed the pilot completely. I lay in the center of the filthy alley, terrified but untouched. We both realized his mistake at the same moment: While most of the buildings on either side of me had been badly masticated by steel teeth, his weapons were mounted on stubby wings on either side of the cockpit, too widely spaced to shoot straight down the alley.

The pilot yanked his control yoke back and forth, trying to give his guns a clear field of fire when I touched off the under-barrel grenade launcher on my weapon. The thick, slow projectile spun from the barrel with the sound of a bass drum, arced up and punched a perfect hole through the weakened glass. I suffered a moment of horror and prayed that the grenade had traveled far enough from the barrel to arm before the world went white. A giant, uncaring hand swatted me further into the alley, bouncing me from wall to dumpster to doorframe. Pain erupted from every direction as the buildings around me wobbled back and forth. I came to rest deep in the darkness and just lay still.

The Angels were hired by the government of Goozner 3 to assault the KelRon datacenter and retrieve proof of a host of illegal activities; from corporate espionage and price gouging to financial information on rampant bribery and missing persons across the planet. We had counted on getting in, downloading the data, and getting out before the backup security teams or police showed up. We got in, but resistance was stiffer than we had expected. The avalanche drive had quickly copied the entire contents of the mainframe into tightly spooled bundles within seconds, but as we exfiltrated additional security forces had swept in from every direction.

These were not the standard retired-police-officer kind of security guard. In fact, the difference between KelRon ‘security’ and ‘mercenary’ was only semantic; they were carrying heavy weaponry, wore better armor, and were better trained than our intelligence said they would be. We lost two fliers in the first exchange and I was separated from the rest of the team in the intense crossfire on the ground. Bullets and coherent light impacted on every side of me as I took cover behind some parked vehicles. I had to retreat under focused fire from all sides. I looked for a way to rejoin the fight when the order to Escape and Evade came down. I managed to find a hole in the combat and dive down a side street, but the respite never lasted long. It was as if they knew where the emergency hard drive was because every time I stopped security teams were there, snapping at my heels.

Now the world refused to focus clearly and my hands fluttered as I checked myself for broken bones or bleeding cuts as the flier burned at the end of the alley. As each limb was inventoried, despair reached up like some dire thing from the bottom of the sea, and grasped me in its cold coils. Tears welled up and stung my eyes. If something had been broken, maybe I could have rationalized just laying there for a few more…hours. I grunted and tested out my helmet-radio. Static crashed into my ears, a sure sign that some heavy-duty jamming was going on. There I was; alone, with no help coming, and every muscle aching. Again I considered just staying put and going to sleep, a thought effectively shattered by another security flier crossing overhead at high speed.

I looked around and tried to get my bearings. My rifle was already a long-forgotten memory, broken and twisted somewhere in the trash of this slum. I also discovered that sometime in the last hour I had lost my pistol, the holster broken, hungry, and forlorn. I went further into the tight passage and turned into a spur as I heard the heavy metallic whine of another flier coming close. I managed to make it to the end of the alley and cross the street before the warble of a police flier’s siren started up a few streets behind me. There was a flurry of cannon fire, the siren had its throat slit, and a resounding crash told the chilling story from two streets away. The police were not going to be able to come to the rescue and KelRon would brook no interference. I popped the virtual compass on my HUD and shook my head as the world tried to go all black and squishy again.

~ * ~

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It’s 2652 and to fight rebellions, put down revolutions, quell civil disturbance, and battle enemy ground troops, planetary governments reach out over the quantum net to hire mercenaries.
Forget glory. Forget adulation. What occupies the mind of a mercenary soldier is survival. One day Todd Rook will be the Captain of The Radiation Angels, but first he has to earn the rank. Follow him on his second mission, where everything goes wrong.

The Radiation Angels were hired by the officials of Goozner 3 to steal data from the KelRon Corporation. That data was to act as evidence to put some of the richest, most powerful people on the planet in jail. It is a well known fact nobody wants to go to jail, but the rich and powerful can protest incarceration with private armies.

Follow Rook in a sprint through alleys and buildings, a race too fast for rest, to harsh for mercy, too dangerous for breath. A journey that will allow him time for Not One Word.

Radiation Angels Series:
Lightyears of distance begin as humble feet of space, and the rise of one of the legendary mercenaries is no different. These stories are collected from many sources to bring you a more complete picture of Todd Rook, a man who would one day risk everything on a gambit, and defend two planets from the damnation of Damocles.


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