Headstrong Heavy Metal

Headstrong Heavy Metal

Book Nine of the Celestial Serenade

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Two civilizations stare across a rift.
One legend can unite them.

The Caltaran council may have voted to abandon Earth in its hour of greatest need, but the legendary Kantis has decided to offer his assistance.

There is just one problem; Kantis is only one man – venerable warrior and veteran of three wars though he is. And he will be fighting an army he designed to stand in his stead. Earth stands ready to provide assistance in the form of ground troops. But they are outnumbered and outgunned – not to mention green as it is possible to be.

Still, Rynick has given everything to gain a favorable outcome. He will not give up without the fight of his life. He might be merely one pilot, but faith and determination have gotten him this far. He can only hope they will carry him through the bitter end – especially now that a legend flies at his side.

While Rynick and Kantis head toward a seemingly inevitable end, one Caltaran refuses to give up on an old alliance. Raschayia races home with news of an ancient enemy and a rabid hope to stir support for her grandfather’s cause. Duty and decorum demand she return to her abdicated post, but love and honor drive her in a different direction.

She cannot abide the potential loss of the empire’s greatest legend – especially not now that she has learned what a wonderful man he is.

When the moment to decide Earth’s ultimate fate finally arrives, who will rise in triumph – and who will fall in flames?

The grimmest of fates…
When they reached the command center, they found the first signs of struggle. Scratches marred the walls, the gouges so deep they could only come from steel claws. Dragon paused beside a brown streak, raking his claws across the spatter before shining his bright eyes into the clear scrapes.

“Blood,” he announced. “But it’s too old to get a proper DNA profile from what remains.”

“This does not bode well,” Kantis said, his eyes dark and his frown deepening. But he said nothing else, merely led them in the dragon’s wake.

The brown splotches grew more frequent as they made their way toward the computer core. There were deep holes in the walls, the tell-tale signs of weapon discharges having missed their intended targets. The windows were shattered, their tiny, crystalline remains spread across the floor beneath the dust and sometimes disturbed by their passage.

Broken furniture littered the corridor leading to the computer core. Doors hung askew on their hinges, their electronic locks blasted open. Raschayia was afraid to glance beyond the shadowed doorframes, fearing what she might find inside.

Rynick looked a little green. He kept his eyes riveted on the floor. Raschayia couldn’t blame him; she had never actually seen a dead body before. She might be trained to deal with combat situations, but she had never had to participate in anything other than drills.

Even as she turned, Rynick bolted back through a doorway. His eyes were wide, and one hand covered his mouth. He fell to his knees in front of a pile of twisted metal chairs and retched.

Raschayia hesitated. Rynick might not be the most stoic man she’d ever met, but he didn’t seem particularly squeamish. She waited until he regained control over his stomach before she crouched and set a hand on his shoulder. “You all right?” she asked softly, suddenly understanding why Kantis had been keeping his voice low.

Rynick coughed and wiped his lips with the back of one hand. “I think I’ll manage to live. But if it’s all the same… I’ll wait out here.”

Again, Raschayia hesitated. It could be dangerous to split the group. But her grandfather must have noticed he was alone in the command center, and he hadn’t barked orders for them to catch up. If he wasn’t worried, she shouldn’t be either.

She nodded, squeezed Rynick’s shoulder and rose, bracing herself as she passed through the doorway.

Instantly, she understood why Rynick fled the room. The sight wasn’t as gruesome as she expected but, still, her stomach tied in knots, forcing her to take several quick, shallow breaths to keep from retching.

The dark splotches covering the walls and floor of this room were unmistakably blood, caked so thick and heavy upon the battlefield that even time hadn’t been able to dull the stain. Whatever the rest of the facility concealed in its shadowed rooms, the computer core was clearly a mass grave. Only a ragged pile of skeletons remained, their bones so intermingled it was impossible to tell how many bodies might have been dumped here or what positions they died in. Judging by the size of the pile, Raschayia thought there had to be at least three hundred, though there might be thousands more scattered throughout the complex, lurking in the corridors turned catacombs outside. Only the skulls remained intact, their jaws open in little expressions of eyeless shock.