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Star Corps

Book One of The Legacy Trilogy

Star Corps by Ian Douglas
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In the future,
earth's warriors have
conquered the heavens.

But on a distant world,
Humanity is in chains ...

Many millennia ago, the human race was enslaved by the An -- a fearsome alien people whose cruel empire once spanned the galaxies, until they were defeated and consigned to oblivion. But a research mission to the planet Ishtar has made a terrifying -- and fatal -- discovery: the Ahanu, ancestors of the former masters, live on, far from the reach of Earth -- born weapons and technology ... and tens of thousands of captive human souls still bow to their iron will. Now Earth's Interstellar Marine Expeditionary Unit must undertake a rescue operation as improbable as it is essential to humankind's future, embarking on a ten-year voyage to a hostile world to face an entrenched enemy driven by dreams of past glory and intent once more on domination. For those who, for countless generations, have known nothing but toil and subjugation must be granted, at all costs, the precious gift entitled to all of their star-traveling kind: freedom!

HarperCollins; October 2009
464 pages; ISBN 9780061978982
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Star Corps
Author: Ian Douglas

Chapter One

2 JUNE 2138

Giza Complex

Kingdom of Allah, Earth

0525 hours Zulu

The trio of TAV Combat Personnel Carrier transports came

in low across the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding the heavily

populated coastal areas around El Iskandariya by crossing

the beach between El Hammam and El Alamein. Skimming

the Western Desert at such low altitudes that their slip-streams sent rooster tails of sand exploding into the pale predawn sky, the TAVs swung sharply south of the isolated communities huddled along the Wadi El Natrun, dumping velocity in a series of weaving banks and turns. Ahead, silhouetted against the brightening eastern horizon and the lights of Cairo, their objective rose like three flat-sided mountains above the undulating dunes.

The defenders would know that something was happening;

even with stealth architecture, the three transatmospheric

vehicles had scorched their radar signatures in ion reentry

trails across the skies of Western Europe as they'd descended from suborbit, and the mullahs of the True Mahdi

had been expecting something of the sort. The only question

was how long it would take them to react.

Captain Martin Warhurst, CO of Bravo Company, sat

hunched over in his travel seat in the rear of CPC Delta's

red-lit troop compartment, crowded torso to armored torso with the men and women of 1st Squad, First Platoon. There

were no windows in the heavily armored compartment, no

viewscreens or news panels, but a data feed painted a small, brightly colored image within his Helmet Data Overlay, showing the outside world as viewed through a camera in the TAV's blunt nose.

There wasn't a lot to see, in fact -- abstract patterns of light and darkness wheeling this way and back with the

TAV's approach maneuvers. The area beyond the Giza complex,

along the west bank of the Nile, was brightly lit. The

extensive archeological digs behind the Sphinx and between

the two northern pyramids, those of Khufu and Khafre, were

bathed in harsh spotlights reflected from aerostats hovering high above the ground-based beam projectors.

He knew the mission orders, knew the lay of the land and

the location of the company's objectives, but it was almost

impossible to make sense of what he was seeing on his HDO

display. Balls of yellow and red light floated up from the

ground -- fire from enemy antiaircraft positions. Colored

lines and symbols glowed among alphanumerics identifying

targets, way points, ranges, and bearings. His cranialink provided analysis, based on data jacked through from the CPC's combat computer. He could see the area marked as the platoon's drop-off point, midway between the Sphinx and

Khafre's pyramid.

"Captain Warhurst," the phlegmatic, female voice of the

TAV's AI pilot said in his helmet receiver. "Thirty seconds. Hot LZ."

"I see it," Warhurst replied. His grip tightened on his

weapon, a General Electric LR-2120 Sunbeam pulse laser,

with its M-12 underbarrel 20mm RPG launcher and data hotlink to his Mark VII armor. He'd been in the Marines for

six years and made captain two years ago, but this would be

his first time in combat, his first hot drop, his first time in command with a live enemy.

God, don't let me screw it up....

The TAVs made a final course adjustment, shrieking low above the sands between the middle and southern pyramids,

their dead-black hulls slipping through crisscrossing targeting radar beams like ghosts, evading hard locks. Air brakes unfolded like ungainly wings as their noses came up, and billows of sand exploded from the hard-driving plasma

thrusters arrayed at wing roots and bellies.

"Hold on," the AI's voice said, as deceleration tugged at Warhurst's gut and the steel deck tilted sharply beneath his booted feet. "We're going in."

"Hang onto your lunches, boys and girls," he called over

First Platoon's comm channel. "We're grounding!"

A jolt ... a moment of suspense and silence ... and then

another, harder jolt as the TAV decelerated on shrieking

thrusters to a slow-drifting hover. With a shrill whine of hydraulics, the first CPC was extruded from the side of the

TAV's fuselage on unfolding davits as raw noise banged and

shrieked inside the sealed troop compartment. Plenum

thrusters already spooling howled now as all four onboard

hovercraft personnel carriers swung free of the floating TAV and detached their cables. Sand blasted around the hovercraft as they floated half a meter above the surface, skittering sideways to clear the overhang of their huge, black transport while the TAV engaged full thrusters and rose clear of the drop zone. "Good luck, First Platoon," the AI pilot's voice announced.

"We're clear of the TAV, Captain!" Lieutenant Schulman,

the CPC commander, yelled over the vehicle's comm system.

Hammer blows clanked and pinged and sang from the hull outside. They were taking small-arms fire. "Objective in

sight, range two-three-five. Moving!"

"Roger that!" Warhurst's helmet display feed had shifted

automatically to a pickup on the CPC's hull now that the

hovercraft was free of its ride. He could see the flash and

wink of gunfire in the darkness, the streaking tracers of

heavy automatic weapons. Somewhere in the distance a round of HE went off with a deep-throated crump, briefly lighting the dune shadows nearby. The CPC's turret shrilled as it rotated in its collar above and forward of the troop compartment, and Warhurst felt the steady thud-thud-thud of the 50mm autocannon slamming high explosive rounds into an enemy gun position.

The armored Marines remained strapped in their seats,

weapons muzzle up between their knees, silent while boiler

room noise boomed and banged around them. Once, the

CPC lurched heavily to the left as a near miss rocked the

hovercraft over on its plenum skirts like a boat listing in

heavy seas, but Schulman righted the stubborn, tough-hulled

machine and swerved hard as armor-seeking missiles

strobed in dazzling cacophony outside ...

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