An Extract from Control: Bleak Pass

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Here’s an extract from the book.  Hope you like.

The sounds of the battle echoed across the cold, black vaulted night.  There was no possibility that anyone could have heard them as they loaded their gear into the waiting truck, but they worked silently regardless.  Everything had been in place exactly as Viktor described it.  The old factory’s yard was deserted, lit briefly as the door sealed shut behind them with a flash of automated welding before plunging them back into darkness.

The ambient glow from surrounding buildings gave them just enough light to see by and they made quick work of stowing weapons and packs before quietly getting into the rows of seats in the back.  It was a civilian respec of an old Russian byk, the original troop carrier they had first used in the Parliament Landings on Calmont.  Judging by the state of the interior it had probably seen the landings first hand.

Manual-drives were a rarity on most populated planets, but the byk was a common enough vehicle on Rassist and would blend into the background without too much difficulty.  The problem they had was getting it out of the Zhelob before the noose tightened and the yooks closed every exit off.  The tunnel had taken them beyond the control points set up by the Vorstaat troops, but as the battle at the club intensified the risk of more military and cops turning up increased.

They had to move, and quickly.

The byk may have seen better days, but the engine was perfectly tuned.  It purred quietly as Galina turned the ignition, filling the cab with a subdued glow from the instrument panels.  The windows were all blacked out and the headlamps had already been killed so the byk remained all but invisible in the cloying darkness of the yard.  The windshield glass had been fitted with night vision displays, giving everyone inside a ghostly view of the world outside as Galina gunned the engine and headed slowly for the exit.

The street outside was clear, but the sounds of gunfire and explosions grew loud enough to shake the byk’s frame as they pulled out.  Galina didn’t waste any time, pulling back on the throttle to bring the heavy truck up to cruising speed before taking a sharp right onto the exit route that would lead them out of the Slavic Quarter and towards the FDF where they were keeping Foster’s team.

They had all reviewed the latest security reports for the FDF; it made for a sobering read, but Foster was unfazed by any of the problems they would be facing.  Radko had to admire her for that.  She glowed with determination; she was angry, he could see that, but she knew how to get the job done.  Radko wondered if his team of old dogs might actually learn something from this soldier who used to be their sworn enemy.

Strange times, he thought, strange times indeed.

The byk rocked slightly as they crossed over to the onramp at speed.  The onramp was deserted, a black shadow of poorly maintained duracrete, rotting away as it clung to the edge of civilisation, but above the suspended channels of ground traffic hummed with life.

Galina pushed up the curving ramp, killing the night vision and flicking the headlights on just as they slipped onto the access lane.  Within moments they were part of the ceaseless flow of traffic that rushed past this dark district, oblivious to what lived beneath them.

Friendly traffic warnings popped up on the HUD, making non-specific, sanitary references to the battle that raged below, advising them to take an alternate route to avoid disruption to their journey.  If there hadn’t been so many people sacrificing their lives – people they knew – just to ensure the byk they were driving could slip away unnoticed, Radko might have found it amusing that the battle had been reduced to a traffic incident advisory.

As things stood he found himself burning with the same purpose as Lieutenant Foster, a fierce desire to see the Vorstaat denied their chance at ending the war.  He knew from personal experience that the Vorstaat had changed since the days of their alliance.  A long time ago they had been idealists, fighting for their right to stand apart from their masters, but now it seemed they just wanted to control everything.  They had been fighting for so long that they had forgotten what it was they were fighting for.

Radko hadn’t.

He hated what they had become.  They were guns for hire, mercenaries working for criminals, doing the jobs no one else wanted to do.  That much hadn’t changed, but when they were in the Velikaya Armiya they did at least have a purpose.  Since this Coalition woman had arrived something had begun, infusing everyone around him with direction.  For the first time in years Viktor had come alive and Radko’s team had followed.

The Roshkod had always been something of a front for Viktor.  They had all believed in the revolution, but no one really thought it would come to anything, so they kept it alive by using it to cover for criminal activity.  After a few years the revolution became a ghost of its former self, eroded away by defeatism and greed.  Radko didn’t blame Viktor, they had all been complicit in abandoning their beliefs after all, but now they had a reason, they had their purpose again.

Watching the distant glow of the fight outside Viktor’s club cemented his will.  People were dying for something they believed in, he had to make that count for something.

The thought that Lieutenant Foster was just using them cast a fleeting shadow over Radko’s mind, but it evaporated soon enough when he remembered the look in her eyes.  He knew that look all too well and he knew that nothing was going to stand in her way.  The plan of attack was simple enough, but there were technical elements he just didn’t understand.  As long as he knew where to shoot he would be happy enough.

When Foster looked up from her datapad, catching Radko’s eye briefly before looking over to Galina in the driver’s seat he saw something he hadn’t expected.

She looked surprised.

“Galina, we need to make a detour.  Something just came up.”

“A problem?”  Asked Radko, concerned.

“Oh no.”  Said Foster, smirking as she checked her datapad again.  “You’ll like this, Radko, you’ll like this a lot.”

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