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Far From Paradise
Jagged Edge Horizon, Volume 2
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-397-0
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy/SF
eBook Length: 146 Pages
Published: February 2018

From inside the flap

Far from Paradise is the continuation of the story begun in Jagged Edge Horizon.

Colonel Hanssen and the Norwegians have emerged victorious in their war with the corporate army, but it has brought them troubling revelations about Oslo and the truth behind the Singularity. And when the corporate army returns to garrison their base in the ruined city, it seems that the entire war was just a distraction meant to buy them time for their true aims.

Admiral Willoch has ordered a force of human ships to confront the alien blockade, but the enemy fleet turns out to be much larger and more deadly than expected. This fleet was never meant to establish a simple blockade but to conduct an outright invasion of the system.

And Agent Townsend continues his investigation of the alien spies on Earth, but learning that their fleet plans to invade throws everything into question. Now they must quickly discover the aliens’ true purpose, otherwise the invasion will play out exactly as the enemy wants.

Far From Paradise (Excerpt)

Prelude - Iceberg

Mohr was trying to sleep in the transport but the turbulence kept waking him. He would just be drifting off when the jet would lurch and jounce as if they had hit a pothole. Nearly 150 years since man had first acquired wings, he thought, and the sky was still a bumpy road.

The transport's hold was filled with the other men of his platoon. None had said a word since lifting off, as they were all dampened by the surprise news of defeat. Colonel Kurkland had delivered the news that morning at reveille: the Home Guard War was over. Officially the settlement with the Norwegians was being branded as a 'ceasefire,' but the terms had more the ring of a 'humiliating surrender.' Mohr's men were also bearing the brunt of the shock, as they were being flown back to Oslo only an hour after roll call. They had awoken that morning thinking of themselves as soldiers still engaged in a desperate struggle, and now it was not even lunch and they were being carted off as post-war surplus.

While Mohr was depressed like everyone else, he was also partly relieved. After the war's rocky start, he had been anxiously awaiting news of their first big victory. But this had never come. The reports had stayed an endless stream of convoys being blown up, bases being harassed, and engagements being denied. And yet the brass had let it drag out, first for one month, then two, and then even for a few weeks more. At last it was over.

Mohr glanced over at Janus sitting next to him. He texted-to not have to shout over the jet noise-, ">Think this is the end of the army?"

Janus looked back. ">Has to be," came his swift reply. ">What do you think this war cost? / One billion? / Two?"

">If that …" Mohr shook his head.

">And now they're still just throwing in the towel."

">Yep … / Even if the whole company's not going under because of it, / I can't imagine the army has much chance of being profitable after this. / Probably nothing left to do but split us up and sell us off."

">That must be why we're all collecting back in Oslo / the fire sale," said Janus.

">Ah, right. / Our transport sets down on an auction block / and the bidding starts before a panel of security contractors."

">And world dictators."

">Heh, yeah."

They had posited that as a joke, but, as Mohr considered it, the more likely it seemed. His grin faded.

">If it came to that, what would your choice for next gig be? / Africa? / South America? / Asia?" Mohr was trying to salvage the joke.

">Well, definitely not South America, all those jungles … / And definitely not Africa, there they got jungles and deserts. / Though southeast Asia has jungles, too, I guess … / Fuck, I don't care where, just no jungles-that's my only rule."

Mohr chuckled.

In the hold there arose some excited chattering from the men. Mohr and Janus looked around but saw nothing to explain it. When they checked the transport's forward cams, however, they understood: they were at last approaching the city.

For many of the men, this would be their first sight of Oslo. They were slobbering over every angle coming from the transport's external cams, and some were even looking out of the windows-to behold the original photons. Mohr thought this irreverent, but he could not blame them. There were several modern ruins, but none with the combined mystery of Oslo.

The low-rise sprawl of the city's outskirts lay ahead, painted a pallid mien by the sullen and overcast day. This sight alone would not have been exceptional had it belonged to any other city, but the mere knowledge that this was Oslo made it fantastic and eldritch. Coming closer, all the city's conspicuous absences came into focus: no cars, no lights, no movement. Trees and greenery were everywhere growing wild, terrorizing the streets. And the buildings were all dilapidated and speckled with broken windows.

Approaching the city center, the heights of the buildings climbed through low-rise, mid-rise, and incipient high-rise levels. But where the city should have had its crowning island of arcologies, in Oslo there was a strange void. The buildings were absent from so large a space as to suggest an impact crater. Inside it, every lot was piled high with debris, yet the streets had been cleared for the corporate army's vehicles. It was a strangely manicured city of rubble.

They soon neared the location of the corporate army's base in the old St. Hanshaugen Park. The last time Mohr had seen Alpha Base-as it had been called back in the early days-it had been just a cluster of buildings with a heavily defended perimeter. Over the years he had heard of it being turned into a hardened installation and renamed 'The Bunker,' but that was all. He was curious what had become of it, as this was his first time back to Oslo in four years.

At first sight of the base, Mohr was stupefied. The Bunker was a squat nanometal dome dominating the center of the park. Its featurelessness at first yielded no sense of scale, but, comparing it to the few surrounding buildings and control towers, Mohr gauged that its footprint was larger than ten square blocks. Its ground level was ringed with eight, massive, twenty-meter-wide hangar doors, all of which were open and ferrying in great tides of men, vehicles, and supplies as if into eight sacrificial mouths. The surrounding oblong expanse of the park had been thoroughly paved to create 'St. Hanshaugen Tarmac.' Everywhere were transports and heavies landing and dusting off, and in between disgorging men and cargo into the teeming maze of ground traffic. Mohr looked for any tents or temporary structures set up on the tarmac, but there were none. Everything was going inside the Bunker.

He had not thought about it that morning, about what it would mean to have the entire corporate army relocating to Oslo. But if at least ten thousand men and all their attendant supplies were going to fit in there, then that structure had to be greater than even that stupendous dome. That had to be only the iceberg peak of a staggering underground complex. Something with the rackspace, garages, messes, food stores, heads, infirmaries, gymnasiums, vid theaters, sim farms, and even the whorehouses and distilleries to sustain an entire division underground for weeks.

Turning to Janus, Mohr repeated his opening question, now rife with self-sarcasm: "Think this is the end of the army …"

Janus huffed and shook his head at the astounding scene. "Now I wish it had been. 'Cause, otherwise, this …" he gestured out the window. "This can only be the beginning of something tremendously fucked."