Read an Excerpt
Book One of The Legacy Trilogy
2 JUNE 2138
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 camerain 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 ...Star Corps
Book One of The Legacy Trilogy. Copyright © by Ian Douglas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.