Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chapter Two: Sneak Peek continued!

I am very happy to announce that signed copies of Guardians of the Crystal Skulls can now be purchased at:

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to experience life at the microscopic level? To have control of all forms of matter at the sub-atomic level? This is what it would mean to wear an Anti-Grav Suit that the Guardians use in my book, and also why they have to protect this technology from their enemies. The massive control and power they wield is devastating in the wrong hands, and a huge responsibility in the right hands.

So the battle lines are being drawn: Anti-Grav Suits for 13 grieving women and a Weapons Master against a fleet of Mobile Attack Robots that are 30 feet tall backed up by the much larger Mobile Attack Robot Carriers operated by trained soldiers from the Warrior Guild. Please enjoy the following, as I share with you how the Guardians felt the first time they bonded with the Anti-Grav Suits.

~D.B. Stearns

Chapter Two 
   ANA’KA SAT BESIDE the stone marker that stood at Ukit Took’s grave. Three days had passed since they had entered the altar room deep inside the Pyraportal. Thirteen men had sacrificed their lives so that the home world could activate the Pyraportal one last time and send them help. But a few memories and some foot lockers greatly disappointed the surviving members of the Mayan Grand Council. These women had lost their life mates in the exchange, and for what? 
   Ana’ka was now drawn back to the memories of that day. She had not opened the footlocker the man had given her. Now her curiosity was up. She set down the flowers she held in her hand at the stone marker. I love you, mi amor, she thought as tears began to flow freely again. Off to the side, she heard a sob and noticed her best friend, MeNana Took. She was Ukit’s sister, and she mourned for her life mate, Senai Batan. MeNana was taller than Ana’ka, but no giant herself at only five feet two inches. A dark haired beauty, MeNana had the slightly elongate head like Ana’ka as was common with Balsarius descendants. Her large, almond-shaped brown eyes complimented her dark hair and dark skin. MeNana was built very differently from Ana’ka, with an athletic build, where Ana’ka was femininely curvy. MeNana loved to run, and her runner’s physique made for a lean beauty. 
   Ana’ka walked over to her best friend and embraced her. They cried together for a moment as they clung to each other. 
   “There, now. We can’t cry all the time, can we?” Ana’ka asked.
   “I can if I want to!” MeNana said defiantly.
   Ana’ka looked at MeNana and blinked her eyes. Then they shared a brief laugh.
   “Something good has to come from this,” Ana’ka remarked. “Have you opened your foot locker?”
   “You mean that box the Weapons Master gave us? No, have you?” 
   “Not yet,” Ana’ka replied. “They’re just sitting there in the Science Guild’s caves. Maybe three days is long enough? I’ve looked and every morning still the same thing: Ukit is gone.” 
   “I know,” replied MeNana. “But sometimes I can almost hear Senai. It’s like he’s close by and calling out to me.” 
   “Can you remember what happened?” asked Ana’ka. 
   “Not really, now that you mention it,” MeNana answered. “I remember a bright light hit my head, then it all gets fuzzy after that. What do you remember?” “That’s about it,” Ana’ka replied. “But aren’t we supposed to seek someone out?”
   “Yes ... but the name escapes me.”
   Then a voice from behind them spoke up, “Shihan Kahn?”
   MeNana and Ana’ka looked around to find a teary-eyed Shea `Ashandra behind them. Shea was one of her childhood friends. Her light complexion and soft brown hair stood out in contrast to Ana’ka. Her bubbly personality helped her through many tough times, but her normally big, beautiful blue eyes were now red from crying over the loss of her life mate Umberto San. Tears streaked her lightly freckled cheeks and ran down her large dimples. 
   “Come here, Shea,” Ana’ka said as she held out her arms for her friend. “I think you’re right. We need to seek out Shihan Kahn, but first I think we have to open the lockers. Shall we do it together?” 
   “That’s fine with me,” said Shea. “I’m going stir-crazy sitting in my room alone. Can we leave now?” 
   The three young women left the grave site and walked back to the village. The commoners watched as the women dressed all in black passed through to the caves where the Science Guild had stored the black footlockers. When they arrived they noticed that the remainder of the Mayan Grand Council had arrived as well. All the women were dressed in black. Ana’ka looked around the room and took stock of who was there. She saw Marta Skyhawk and Alejandra Balche providing comfort to a crying Gabrielle Cabich over to the right. In the center of the room, Alana Akholay hugged Josephine Itza, who sobbed uncontrollably. Isabella Kuxim and Adrianna Noh were listening to Miriam Mucuy, who was obviously furious about something. She was ever the rebellious one. Alessandra Pech and Fabienne Pitz came up and hugged Ana’ka, Shea, and MeNana. 
   “My Queen, it’s good to see you,” Alessandra said to Ana’ka. 
   “Please, Alessandra, we grew up together. There’s nobody here but us, so don’t be so damn formal.” 
   “Actually, we’re not alone,” replied Fabienne as she pointed over to Elder Danshe and Elder Shihan Kahn who stood in the middle of the room. 
   “Shihan, what are you doing here?” Ana’ka asked as she walked over to him. 
   “Waiting on you,” Shihan answered, then addressed everyone in the room in a loud voice. “I know that you’ve all been through much, so we have let you mourn. Now that you have all come here of your own free will, it’s time to open the lockers that Weapons Master Tsu gave you at the Pyraportal.”
   Ana’ka noticed that all the black footlockers lay in a row on the floor with labels for each of the women. She walked over to the one with her name on it. She scolded herself for her nervousness as she knelt beside the locker. In the center of the lid was a strange round symbol of dark flames that spun off the outside in a counter-clockwise motion, while the inside of the circle had very light-colored flames that spun clockwise toward a golden twisted triangle in the center as if drawn to it. In the center of the triangle was a small black Crystal Skull.
   To either side of the symbol were two hand prints. Ana’ka instinctively placed her palms on the hand prints. The skull at the center of the symbol turned white and glowed as the entire locker changed in color from black to white. Ana’ka felt the lid push against her hands, and as she leaned back the lid lifted. Inside she saw a large, strange glass container full of a dark multicolored gel. The container’s lid and base were clearly electronic with many lights that flashed and a holographic interface built into the lid that flashed red and read “Gravity Sensitive Materials”. The dark colors of the gel inside the container swirled and moved as though alive. Ana’ka could only look at it for a few seconds before she started to feel sick to her stomach. A pouch full of data crystals was found in the bottom of the footlocker with the label “Science Guild”. Next to the pouch was a dark, multi-colored suit that resembled black opal. Ana’ka suddenly recalled a memory of Weapons Master Tsu who had referred to the dark bodysuit he wore under his white robe as an Anti-Grav Suit. Ana’ka picked up the suit and held it before her as she stood up. This is too big for me, she thought. Then she looked down in the bottom of the locker and noticed a second suit with a label on it that read “Shihan Kahn”. 
   “Shihan, I think this is for you,” Ana’ka said as she handed him the second suit. “I don’t see how this one will fit me.” 
   Shihan smiled, “They self-adjust to fit you. All of you must clear your mind and let the Anti-Grav Suit bond to you. Relax and accept this tremendous gift. The Light has chosen all of you to save humanity, and these are the tools you’ll use. Now clear your mind as if you’re making yourself ready for battle.” 
   Ana’ka glanced over at MeNana and Shea and nodded as they all began to pull the suits on over their clothes. 
   Shihan shook his head, “The Anti-Grav Suits must create a neurological bond with you; so you need to remove all clothing. The male Science Guild members will now collect their gifts from your boxes and will leave for modesty purposes.” 
   Miriam gasped, indignant at the suggestion that she had to remove her clothes. But then she softened as she looked over at Ana’ka and saw that she had already removed her long black robe even as the Science Guild members began to collect the containers and data crystals. Miriam sighed and reluctantly followed the example of her queen. 
   Ana’ka felt like a child in the large suit as she pulled it on. It had a warmness to it, as if it had been in the sun all day. The suit had built-in areas for her feet and hands that left her fingers exposed. She could feel bumps all along the back and feet. To get her hands and feet into the proper places, she had to bunch the suit around her ankles and wrists. 
   She sighed and closed her eyes. So many thoughts ran through her mind. Recent events clouded her thoughts. She visualized a bonfire in the darkness of her mind. She slowly placed each thought into the fire and forgot them as they burned into nothing. As each thought burned in the fire, the darkness began to fade as she floated in the peaceful white void. This gave a warrior clarity to let the body react as it was trained. 
   Then she felt the suit tighten up around her arms and legs and continue upward until it touched every part of her body. She became acutely aware now of all the bumps that now pressed against her spinal cord, feet and hands. Then all at once Ana’ka felt tiny needle pricks enter her skin on every one of those bumps simultaneously. 
   The white void wavered for a second, then the calmness returned. She was aware of great spasms in her legs and arms. A searing pain flashed for just a moment in her mind, and then it was gone. Now the only thing left was an awareness like she had never known before. It overwhelmed her as the sound rushed in all at once. The volume overwhelmed her as she heard what could only be described as music. 
   As the sense of her surroundings came into focus, Ana’ka now realized that this was the music of reality. She had never realized it surrounded her, but it was always there. Everything resonated and had its own pitch. At first, the sound was deafening, but then she began to control the volume, and it soon became a dull noise in the background. She felt a sense of balance and oneness that surrounded her in this simple cave. 
   She looked around and everywhere she turned the music changed to reflect what she saw. Then she realized she could sense so much more than she could see with her eyes. She closed her eyes as the world around her opened up. She sensed the water in the lake off to the side, and the caverns that extended all around her. She sensed the minerals, dirt and rocks, trees and every living thing that surrounded her. There were so many more living things around her than she had ever realized. There were snails, snakes, and bugs everywhere. Then she marveled as she focused even deeper on smaller things. She found microbial bacteria that lived in the warm dark earth that surrounded the caves. She focused ever deeper to the cells and molecules and basic building blocks of each item. Strange words filled her mind as she identified subatomic particles of protons, neutrons, electrons quarks, leptons, and bosons. 
   Ana’ka pulled back from the microscopic world and marveled as she zoomed back out and opened her eyes. Then she noticed that even the things she saw with her eyes had changed. Everything looked so crystal clear now. She could see details that she never dreamed were possible before: the grains of each speck of dirt, the crystal cuts of every grain of sand, and the wild colors of the rock formations in the cavern. There was a kind of “rightness” to things when they were in balance with the natural order of the universe. She could feel the simplicity and complexity of the universe all rolled up together, and she knew that all living things were connected in some way. She felt powerful and insignificant all at the same time. It all confused her. 
   Ana’ka looked up at her friends and saw the awe on their faces as each was bonded to their suits. Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes as the beauty of the music filled her with hope. She looked over and saw Shihan Kahn had also bonded with his Anti-Grav Suit. He had a peaceful look on his otherwise expressionless face, as he knelt quietly on the floor with his palms up as they rested on his knees. Shihan opened his eyes and saw Ana’ka. They stared solemnly at each other for a long moment, then Shihan nodded and rose as the ladies began to talk to each other in amazement at what they had just experienced. 
   “It’s time to begin our training,” Shihan said in a loud voice. “We have much to learn and very little time.” 
*   *   *
   The Science Guild members dressed in white lab coats walked in line back to the section of caves to their secret lab where they were able to safely link with the Space Station. They carried the gravity containers and data crystals from the footlockers from the home world. There were 91 numbered data crystals, and 13 containers of the strange gel. 
   The scientists all gazed and mumbled excitedly about the contents of the gravity containers as they placed them on a table in the center of the lab. A very excited Pressler Anias looked on with the other scientists until an older and very bald scientist with one gold band on the cuffs of his sleeves spoke up. 
   “I’m sure the data crystals have our explanation. Are they numbered?” 
   Pressler was quick to speak up. “I have the number one crystal,” he said as he lifted the red finger-length crystal up and made his way to workstations at the back of the lab. 
   Along the lab’s back wall were many workstations for the scientists. Pressler sat at one of desks and placed the red finger-length data crystal into the interface. Then he picked up a pitch pipe connected to the desk and blew a few notes through the pipe until his console came to life. A complete holographic projection of an older gentleman in a white lab coat with three gold bands on the cuffs of his sleeves stood in front of the scientists. 
   “Greetings, fellow guild members. I am Piers Mason, Elder of the Science Guild on Balsarius. By now you have the gravity-stasis containers in front of you. Inside those containers are the building blocks for the Anti-Grav Suits. It’s a naturally occurring bacteria on a desert moon in the Banthaba system. It requires low gravity to survive in its natural state. We believe that you can recreate the same conditions on your space station and have provided you with our studies on the substance on data crystals two through four. Data crystals five and six contain the plans to create your own Anti-Grav Suits that safely hold the bacteria and provide the interface to recharge the suit. The bacteria convert water into tritium, which powers the suit. With your unlimited access to water, one suit could last for centuries. 
   “As with all Anti-Gravity technology, you must take precautions with who has access. The suits are not as powerful as the Anti-Grav Units were, but they have greater capabilities to go deeper and farther because of the direct interface with the wearer. In the wrong hands a person would be nearly invincible, as your mind is the only real limitation. 
   “The remaining data crystals contain all the advances that we have made to date and include a new neuro interface, advanced holographic capabilities for virtual worlds, drone control technology, advanced artificial intelligence tech, and an energy conversion technology that uses enemy weapon fire to strengthen shield energy. 
   “We hope that what we’ve provided will be enough to help you until reinforcements arrive, but those ships are still several hundred years out. The good news is that the G`Alad reinforcements are also several hundred years away. May the Light shine through you and keep you safe until we can arrive. Pray that we arrive there first.” 
   Pressler looked around at the other scientists in the room and sighed.
“It’ll have to be enough,” Pressler commented.
The bald scientist replied, “We’ll make it enough. Time to get to work, gentlemen!” 

*   *   *
   The 10 red and gold MARs warriors crouched in the natural depressions of the land and waited in ambush for the blue and white MARs units of the G`Alad. They were vastly outnumbered, but the Balsarius had to provide a chance for the main portion of the fleet to escape the G`Alad. Commander Abdul-Wahid bin Abu Hafs was not happy with the way that things had worked out. First, he was furious that the Science Guild had circumvented him and woken Elder Kahn from stasis. You would think that the Elder of the Warrior Guild would better understand that the fog of war ebbed and flowed. There was nothing that required the Weapons Master to be brought out of stasis. 
   But now that he was out of stasis, he quickly took control back over and had demoted Hafs from general to commander. Damn Pressler Anias! His anger burned inside him again as he thought about the young, dumpy-looking scientist. I’ll make sure he pays dearly for this. But for now I’ll take it out on the G`Alad. He was a good-looking middle-aged man with dark skin, dark brown eyes and a well-trimmed beard. He had a large mole high up on his left cheek that stood out as an unmistakable feature. 
   Hafs snapped his head to the display of the remote camera as the proximity alarm sounded. Hafs had the MARs in a crouched position with the pulse cannons pointed in the direction of the G`Alad that pursued them. The newly updated virtual reality pod in the Balsarius MARs units gave them several advantages over the G`Alad. The faster-than-thought reaction times of their warriors helped to even the odds, but it only went so far. The Science Guild then updated the interface so that they could deploy tiny drone cameras that were no larger than an insect. That gave them much better ability to lock weapons from an ambush. Hafs took advantage of his drone camera to soft-lock on three of the G`Alad MARs. He looked at the holographic displays that surrounded him. He could clearly see his squad of 10 all crouched down as 40 G`Alad MARs warriors approached. Several hundred ground troops marched with the MARs warriors. Hafs signaled to his squad. 
   “Okay, time to see if these new updates from the Science Guild will make a difference. Lock down your visors, then lock-pulse cannons on as many targets as you can,” Hafs commanded. “Fire and retreat to rendezvous point Omega 4. On my mark.” 
   Hafs waited patiently until the enemy was nearly right on top of them. Then he set off the electro-magnetic-pulse beacons. The G`Alad MARs units all froze in place as their shields dropped. 
   Ten Balsarius MARs warriors jumped out of hiding with the dark visors pulled down firmly. Hafs fired his pulse cannon on the first three enemy targets. With their shields down, they were quickly destroyed. The G`Alad forces were fast to respond, as many other MARs warriors rushed forward to attack. Pulse cannons and lasers cut through the air at the Balsarius forces. With their shields in place, all the energy-based weapons were absorbed by the new Science Guild shields. The G`Alad shields were not as advanced, though. The Balsarius forces fired back with a barrage of rockets. It took three rockets to penetrate the shields, and when they fell the Balsarius cut them to pieces with the blue-colored lights fired from the pulse cannons. The shoulder-mounted red lasers cut across the battlefield to the exposed enemy units and cut them to pieces. Hafs noted several platoons of enemy MARs warriors followed by one of the larger MARCs. The green-and-gold-colored Mobile Attack Robot Carrier was fully 100 feet tall and was used to deploy MARs warriors and troops for an invasion force. They were massive and among the first things that the G`Alad had made sure that they had full control of at the beginning of the war. The Balsarius had still not been able to replace any of the MARCs they had lost. 
   “Shit! Everyone hold your ground; I’ve got a little something for that MARC. Blast shields!” Hafs yelled through the com. “Just a little closer, assholes. Now!” Hafs let out a primal scream as the blinding white light flashed. The sonic mine exploded in total silence. A split second later, wave after wave of low-frequency waves pounded against the MARC and the MARs warriors. The sound disrupted their shields, then buffeted the units’ outer armor. The MARs warriors had much more trouble than the larger MARC. In the confusion of the sonic mine, the Balsarius struck once again with a hail of blue pulse cannons and red laser fire. Within minutes the G`Alad had lost over 30 of their MARs warriors, and the MARC had been severely damaged. Hafs looked at the battlefield through the virtual-reality link and shook his head as 60 more MARs and two more MARCs headed their way. 
   “Fire three more shots and retreat!” Hafs commanded. His forces responded with a hail of pulse cannons. The blue electronic pulses slammed into the sturdy legs of the G`Alad MARs units and knocked several of them to the ground before they retreated. The Balsarius fired the rocket boosters that were attached to the sturdy wings that unfolded from the jet pack on the back of the MARs units. They quickly flew to the rendezvous point and waited for their commander. Seconds later Hafs gathered his squad together at the base of the ridge. There at the cave’s entrance he gave his next orders as he flicked his fingers in the holographic projection and the map was sent to the squad members. An underground path was highlighted that led back toward the enemy forces. 
   “Take this route back,” Hafs briefed. He pointed to a place on the map where the tunnel split into multiple tunnels that ended in different destinations. “Stay in contact when we get here, then we split up and come up from behind them. The main forces are already on their way. Launch your transponders to the East and let’s hope they take the bait. Move out!” 
   They launched their transponders and turned to the mouth of the tunnel. The escape tunnels were not tall enough for them to walk through, so each of them grabbed one of the rugged dollies that they pre-staged for their escape. They lay on their backs and used their feet to scoot themselves on the dollies. They moved quickly and silently through the tunnels, undetected. 
   Hafs waited until all his squad was safely on their way before he got on his dolly and made his way through the tunnel. He watched the remote drone camera and smiled as the G`Alad continued past the mouth of the escape tunnel, but his elation was short lived. 
   “Team Chief, this is Scorpion One. We reached the junction,” signaled Ensign Waters. “What’s it look like topside?” 
   Hafs hesitated for a second before he answered. 
   “It could be better, but it’s not. Wait for me at the junction. Be there in five microns. Team Chief out.” 
   A few moments later, Hafs met up with the other nine MARs warriors in the large cave. 
   “What’s up, Chief?” Ensign Waters asked. 
   Hafs stood up from the dolly and flicked his fingers through the holographic screens until he was able to share the remote drone feed with the rest of the squad. “We disabled the MARC,” Hafs commented. “But he’s right in the middle of our escape route.”
   “I still have the tactical nuke,” offered Ensign Waters as he highlighted the tunnel exit closest to the MARC. “Since we launched our transponders we’ll be more difficult to detect. Let me come up behind them here and launch the nuke. The rest of you can double up and escape through these farthest tunnels.”
   “How are you going to escape then?” Hafs asked.
   “I just plan to stick my head up long enough to launch the nuke, then I’ll 
duck back down the tunnel and make my way back through this tunnel to the south, and we’ll meet back up at the base.” 
   Hafs looked at the rest of the squad and asked, “Anyone got a better idea?” 
   Ensign Kotter spoke up next, “Nope. If we don’t do something quick we’ll get overrun by another platoon of G`Alad. I agree with Waters, but let’s pull lots to see who stays back.” 
   “Fine,” said Hafs. “I’ll set up the pull, and everyone pick a number between one and a hundred. Closest to the number stays behind.” Hafs pulled up and shared the holographic number generator. He activated it, and the numbers started to roll over too fast to read. 
   “Okay, lock in your numbers,” Hafs said as he locked in the number 75 and waited. A few seconds later the squad had all locked in their numbers, and the numbers began to slow down and rested on the number 72. 
   “Guess that means me,” Hafs said as everybody’s numbers lit up and the number 75 flashed. 
   After a couple of small modifications, the nuke was transferred from Ensign Waters to Hafs. “Chief, that’s not how I envisioned this working out.” 
   “I know, but it’s the only fair way,” Hafs said with a smile. “Two months ago I was a general. Now I get to do some fun stuff! Contact me when you get topside so I can transfer control of the drone to you. Just don’t forget to share the feed with me. When the nuke goes off, retreat to home base. I’ll get there as soon as I can. Don’t wait for me. That’s an order.” 
   “Aye, sir. It’s been a pleasure,” Waters said as he saluted his commander, turned, and picked up his dolly. “Move out!” 
   One by one they saluted Hafs and disappeared into the outside tunnels. Hafs followed the center tunnel up and waited in the darkness of the cave just out of sight of any patrols that might be close. He looked at the holographic display that showed the battlefield from the drone’s bird’s-eye view. He watched the rest of his squad as they reached their destinations. 
   “Team Chief, this is Scorpion,” Waters called back to Hafs. “We’re in place.” 
   “Scorpion, take control of the drone. Share the feedback with me for a long as you can.” 
   “Aye Sir. May the Light shine upon you.” 
   “I’m going to need more than that, Scorpion. Team Chief out,” Hafs said. Hafs watched the battlefield map and waited until it looked like the enemy forces had begun to focus all their attention to the east in the direction of their transponders. 
   Hafs shook his head and said, “I don’t think it’s going to get any better than this.” He flexed his legs and ignited the rocket boosters in his feet. He shot out of the tunnel and up into the air in a split second. Hafs locked on the base of MARC and launched the nuke. After it launched, he spun around and landed on the ground with a thud. Panels on his arms opened up as machine guns locked into place. 

   He shot and killed the surprised ground troops that surrounded him, before they could transmit a warning. Hafs knelt down quickly and dropped his blast shield as the white flash indicated the nuke had exploded. A second later the shockwave hit his MARs unit. Hafs waited for the implosion shockwave to rush back from the other direction before he grabbed his dolly and ducked back into the tunnel. Just as he entered the tunnel he thought he saw a shadow move out of the corner of his eye. Then everything went black. 

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