Book Excerpt The Burning Sun

February 23, 2014 at 9:57 am Leave a comment


I’m sharing an excerpt from “The Burning Sun” today, the sequel to “First Admiral”, for which I hosted an excerpt earlier this week. Enjoy!

Book Excerpt

The Artreaus System

The Bardomil Empress was not happy. As a creature who had grown used to immediate obedience, any delay in fulfilling her wishes was a cause of major irritation and anger. Silently, she stalked around the specially prepared Battle Command Centre aboard the flagship of the Bardomil Imperial Sixth Fleet. With her beautiful angelic-like face twisted in a rictus of annoyance and frustration, she stomped heavily amongst the terrified senior Officers who stood at attention in a semi-circle in front of her elevated throne.

“Incompetent fools!” she bellowed as her immaculate dark green dress swished and swirled around her in response to every small movement, “Why are we still waiting!?”

“M…M…Ma…Majesty,” the terrified Fleet Commander began to explain.

“M…M…Ma…Majesty,” the Empress sneeringly mocked the frightened senior military Officer, “We have been here for nearly four hours waiting for you imbeciles to test this weapon. How much longer!?” she raged, shoving her angelic, hate-twisted, face close to the Fleet Commander’s.

“Majesty,” the Fleet Commander swallowed nervously; hoping that he wouldn’t pass out from terror, “we have to wait for the planet to align correctly to make best use of the weapon’s potential,” he stammered.

“That’s not good enough,” she shrieked, as if her temper tantrum could somehow speed the orbit of the doomed planet, “How much longer must we wait for your stupidity to make any progress!?”

“The planet should be in optimal position in twenty-three minutes, Majesty,” the Captain of the Imperial Bodyguards, Sudrus, reported from one of the consoles close to the Empress.

For a moment, the Empress paused, her face changing from a mask of hate to one of placid calm and gentleness in the blink of an eye.

“There, Gentlemen,” she addressed the terrorised Officers sweetly, “that is how to do things efficiently; thank you, Captain Sudrus,” she smiled.

Turning with balletic grace, the Empress tip-toed daintily up the three steps to her specially positioned throne, and sat down.

“You are dismissed, Gentlemen,” she smiled relieving them with a regal wave of her pale grey hand.

Having been sent away, the senior Officers scattered rapidly in all directions like chickens in a coop that had been disturbed by a hungry fox, relieved to be out of her icy and deadly glare.

Sitting comfortably on the throne, the Empress pushed a button on the Control Panel built into the right arm rest. Immediately, four, two-dimensional, screens were projected from the floor of the Battle Command Centre. The screens formed a huge semi-circle that seemed to engulf the front of the Imperial throne. Each ten metre high screen, though curved, did not distort its image allowing the Empress a full panoramic view of the scenario that was unfolding before her.

The first screen showed the disposition of the Bardomil Imperial Sixth Fleet. The Sixth Fleet was not an active front line combat formation, but was purely for ceremonial and security purposes. It was, in effect, her own private protection and display formation. The flagship of the Sixth Fleet, her own personal Imperial yacht, was the three-decked Imperial Fighter-Carrier named “Taurai”. The Taurai had never carried, let alone launched in anger, one of the feared single-seat Harpoon fighters that had terrorised hundreds of galaxies.

Nor had it played host to any of the Flying Devil gunships that struck dread and fear into an enemy’s heart. The Taurai was a pleasure craft designed and utilised for the transportation of the Bardomil Imperial Court and Retinue. The decks and hangars had been stripped of the paraphernalia of warfare, which had been replaced by luxurious quarters and state rooms plus various entertainment facilities and the communications equipment from which to issue orders and instructions to the sprawling Bardomil Empire.

The Taurai was, however, protected in-formation by eight further Imperial Fighter-Carriers, which bore an over-full complement of Harpoon fighters and Flying Devils. In their tight triangular formation, the Imperial Fighter-Carriers were screened by swarms of the large, heavily armed M-Cruisers. The long cylindrical body of the M-Cruiser with its bent gull-wings was as menacing and sinister as it was impressive. Through the serried ranks of Imperial Fighter-Carriers and M-Cruisers, the Harpoons and Flying Devils darted and weaved, maintaining their vigil for any possible threat to the Head of State and absolute ruler. In neighbouring solar systems, other Bardomil Imperial Fleets would be maintaining a security cordon to protect their Empress. The full panoply of the Bardomil war machine was now on show around what was normally considered to be a backwater system in a remote galaxy of the Empire.

The second screen showed the purpose of the visit for this huge array of Bardomil military strength. The image was of a large beautiful golden planet called “Collizon”. The planet of Collizon had no significant strategic value, nor any valuable mineral or natural resources. Its vast deep emerald green oceans supported a flimsy ecosystem with a meagre scattering of indigenous species. The dark yellow and pale brown continental landmasses reflected from the clear cloudless skies to give the planet the shining golden hue that made it instantly identifiable amongst the fourteen other drably coloured planets of the system. The top species were a few hundred thousand humanoid-type people called the Manuch. The Manuch lived by subsistence farming in their small, scattered tribal groups and presented no military threat to the Bardomil Empire. Collizon was not a hotbed of rebellion against the Empress. It did not shelter any of the numerous rebels or enemies of the Empire. It did, however, possess one vital characteristic. Collizon was a life-bearing planet with an atmosphere primarily composed of Nitrogen and Oxygen that circled a yellow dwarf star at a distance of just over one hundred and fifty million kilometres.

The third screen displayed the yellow dwarf star that sat at the heart of the fifteen planet system and which was being orbited by the emitter weapon developed by the now deceased Sammut Claggit. The weapon itself was too small to be seen by the naked eye as it circled the star, however, a hollow red square was superimposed upon the solar image to indicate the object’s position. The faint box tracked the weapon as it quietly and smoothly crossed the face of the star before disappearing behind the great burning orb.

The final screen displayed a schematic image of the fifteen planet solar system from a perspective located above the planets. It indicated their orbits relative to each other and the yellow dwarf at the heart of the system. When the Lissian Emitter Weapon was activated this screen would show the destructive path of the super-charged plasma as it seared across the solar system destroying the planets in its relentless path. The sixth planet; Collizon, was highlighted in pale blue, in contrast to the other drab brown planetary images.

The tension in the Battle Command Centre rose dramatically as the appointed hour for the test firing of the Emitter Weapon approached.

The Battle Centre personnel, under the implacable scrutiny of the Empress, hurried about their duties, hoping that on this of all days they would not make even the tiniest mistake. In the Imperial presence, even the smallest of errors could land someone in an execution chamber or on the very short trip out of an airlock into the emptiness of space.

Lullina watched intently as the last few moments of the countdown were intoned by a frightened Technician who drew heavy breaths to hide her fear. But, when the count reached “zero”, nothing seemed to happen. The Empress scrutinised the third screen image for any changes, no matter how insignificant, whilst Technicians and scientists scrambled and sweated profusely over their calculations and projections. Long seconds that felt like decades drew out in the deathly silence of the Battle Command Centre as the scientists tried to work out what had happened. The Fleet Commander, ultimately responsible for the deployment of the weapon, shuffled anxiously at his Battle Station.

The quiet buzz of communications traffic broke the almost painful silence of the Battle Centre as orders, requests reports and speculations flowed through the networks. All through the Taurai, silent wishes arose; if there’s been an error, please let it be someone else’s fault. The Empress, growing ever more agitated, shifted on her throne, her face changing from the benign and peaceful angelic half smile to the more animated and treacherous scowl that indicated her displeasure.

“Gentlemen, why are we wait…” the Empress began from her aerie-like Imperial throne.

She never got to finish the question as the third screen before her flickered several times and the image of the yellow dwarf star began to change colour. Moving from a bright yellow to a slightly more orange-yellow tone, the magnetic polarity of the star was altered just sufficiently to destabilise and magnify the huge nuclear reactions deep within its core.

A moment later, a huge burst of super-heated plasma spewed out from the top left-hand quarter of the celestial body and began to snake and slither away towards the planets of the system.

The collective sigh of relief in the Battle Command Centre was masked by a loud celebratory cheer while the personnel watched as more and more super-heated plasma was ejected from the yellow dwarf. The Empress, her face shining with delight, sat back on her throne and marvelled at the sheer volume of material being sent forth from this one tiny star.

Snake-like, sinuous tendrils of intense plasma were speeding away from the yellow dwarf out into the emptiness of space. If the scientists were correct, the planet of Collizon would follow its normal orbital path and spin directly into the path of the advancing fiery nightmare.

Meanwhile, on Collizon, the plant and animal life had no idea that in two hours time, they would be seared out of existence, and went about their day to day business oblivious to the horror that was heading towards them. The Empress clapped her Imperial hands excitedly and watched; her black eyes shining with delight, as the stream of charged plasma burst forth seemingly without end.

After two minutes of constant eruption, the yellow dwarf was finally exhausted. The violent plasma eruption stuttered to a halt as the last deadly spume was sent hurtling into the void of space. And, with the last lurching outburst of plasma, the Battle Command Centre put up one last cheer as the Empress smiled with satisfaction and reclined onto her throne once more. On the fourth screen before her, she saw the first streaks of yellow plasma bursting away from the yellow dwarf out into the Artreaus solar system. In two hours she would be able to see just how powerful this new weapon was and how much devastation it would wreak upon her enemies.

And, as she marvelled at the new sadistic power the late and unlamented Sammut Claggit had bestowed upon her, an idea had already formed in her mind.

She was going to have to be careful how she handled the deployment of this new weapon. She would have to make sure that the next solar flare disaster looked like a naturally occurring phenomenon for which the Bardomil Empire would attract no blame.

She was going to have her revenge against Billy Caudwell and his upstart Universal Alliance.

Two hours after the ignition of the emitter weapon, the Bardomil Empress waited patiently on her throne for the final act of the celestial drama that had unfolded before her. Slowly, and gradually, the yellow image of the advancing super-heated plasma had crept across the field of view on the fourth monitor.

For those two hours, the Bardomil Empress had sat quietly, eagerly anticipating the coming destruction and devastation. The tension and sense of dread and terror in the Battle Command Centre had, however, shown no discernible sign of decreasing. The faint murmur of communications traffic struggled to become distinct over the brutal hush of fear and intimidation. The crushing silence of the Battle Command Centre was broken only twice by the girlish shrieks of delight and dainty applause of the Empress as the super-heated plasma engulfed the second and fourth planets of the system. Both of these worlds were uninhabited, and now uninhabitable, but the Empress squealed like an overjoyed schoolgirl as the searing hot plasma scorched the already scarred and overheated surfaces of the two planets into a fiery oblivion.

With the fourth planet still being seared by the tail end of the super-hearted plasma flow, the Empress sat back on her throne with an air of malicious expectation. The next planet to orbit into the path of the plasma stream was Collizon. The peaceful, life-bearing planet was spinning slowly around to that side of the yellow dwarf star, filling the Bardomil Empress with a feeling of morbid delight and excitement.

It was all going exactly to plan, the Empress pondered as she watched the plasma stream edge closer to the orbit of Collizon. Just as the Xanart had predicted, the stream of super-heated plasma was able to emerge from the yellow dwarf star and cover the required distance to the intended target. It was a shame to have to kill Claggit and his assistant; they might have been of some limited value in future weapons development. But, the theoretical basis for the emitter weapon was now known to the Bardomil scientific community which meant that bigger and more powerful weapons could be developed. And, more importantly, they could be developed without the risk of betrayal by aliens whose loyalty to the Empress was, at best, questionable. There would be no security leaks from the Imperial Ordnance Laboratories about this new emitter weapon.

The one remaining question was now whether the plasma stream would still have enough destructive power to wipe out everything on the inhabited planet. The scientists with their computer models and complex calculations had assured the Empress that there would be sufficient strength in the plasma flow to engulf Collizon three times over. The proof of the pudding, as the Empress well knew, would be in its eating. Computer models had been wrong before and costly mistakes had been made. But, this was one project the Empress was determined to see work. The scientists, like the senior military Officers were huddled at their stations hoping for a good outcome to the test. When the consequence of failure was a short trip out of an airlock, checking, double-checking and even beyond triple-checking became a way of life.

Silently, her black-orb eyes shining with anticipation, the Empress sat on the edge of the large throne. Scanning the four curved screens in front of her, she counted down the minutes and seconds until the super-heated plasma impacted with the atmosphere and surface of the planet. When it finally struck Collizon, the Empress stood up, her beautiful angelic face twisted in a snarl of evil delight. Fixing her gaze on the second screen, the Empress saw the live-action images of the destruction of a planet with millions of living creatures on it.

The first snaking tendrils of plasma swept in from the solar eruption and for a few moments it looked like the planet’s magnetic field was going to protect the vulnerable world from the scorching horror. But, to the delight of the Empress there was just too great a volume of super-heated matter. The initial fingers, deflected away by the magnetic field, flared up like huge white hot waves crashing against the seashore as they surged out into space. With her fists clenching and her face growing into a mask of anxiety, the Empress watched as the following waves of plasma overwhelmed the magnetic field and were drawn down by the planets gravity, through the atmosphere to the defenceless surface.

Within moments, the deep emerald green oceans began to boil and evaporate causing a huge billow of white steam to radiate away from the first impact site. Fractions of a second later, the following waves of super-heated plasma scattered the ocean steam as it began to lick voraciously at the golden land masses of the planet. The great waves of searing death splashed onto the surface of the planet, and within a few seconds were sending out a front of surging plasma that rapidly spread away from the impact that covered almost half of the northern continent. Like a puddle of white hot liquid being forced outwards by more liquid being poured into it, the plasma wave began to sweep around the planet.

On the planet surface, the humanoid Manuch and all of the other living creatures in the path of the scorching onslaught spent their final moments in abject terror before succumbing to the mercifully short sting of instantaneous incineration. From her throne, safe aboard the Taurai, the Empress watched in vicious delight as the great fiery puddle spread even further across the golden surface of the planet. The doomed planet, set on its course billions of years before, spun slowly and languidly into its own destruction.

Within a few more seconds the wave-fronts collided; a beautiful yellow rippling effect showed that shock waves were surging through the ever-spreading lakes. They quickly poured over the northern and southern polar caps and disappeared to devour the obscured side of the planet. The Empress, meanwhile, sat in awe of the devastation being wreaked on the unprotected planet as the wave-fronts splashed toward the eastern and western horizons devouring everything in their path.

On the planet surface, nothing survived as a huge wall of surging fire swept across the landscape incinerating everything that stood in its way. The lush vegetation ignited for a few brief moments before the great roaring and shrieking wave of destruction swept over grasslands and forests with the same indiscriminate ferocity. Rivers boiled and evaporated in an instant as the fleeing animals screamed and made their final futile attempts to outrun the terror that pursued them to a horrible destruction. Rocks and soil on the surface melted under the intense heat; fusing for a few brief seconds into a beautiful golden glassy substance that was incinerated with the passing wave-fronts that would finally leave black charred carbon in their wake.

Aboard the Taurai, the Empress watched the lake of fire that now engulfed the hemisphere of the planet that she could see. Greater splashes of plasma were now hammering into the inferno that pushed the wave-fronts onwards on the blind side of the planet until they finally met.

The end of all life on Collizon was marked with a huge rippling shock wave that swirled and eddied over the entire yellow scorching surface of the now dead world. For a few more seconds, the planet of Collizon looked like a huge shimmering yellow pearl hanging in the darkness of space. To someone not aware of what had just happened, it looked just like a newborn star as more waves of super-heated plasma hammered downwards.

The final agony of Collizon finally came when the atmosphere disintegrated. The following waves of plasma seemed to flow over the shimmering yellow pearl that had once been a living breathing thriving planet like a river over a rock. As the great stream of super-heated plasma swept over the planet, the intense heat finally broke down the gravitational field. With nothing to hold the burning plasma onto the surface of the planet, the fiery lakes that had incinerated Collizon were dragged back out into space leaving a scorched, bright-red glowing cinder.

With tears of delight in her black-orb eyes, the Empress daintily clapped her hands and marvelled at the power to destroy that she now commanded. It was beautiful and magnificent she praised the weapon that had wrought annihilation to an entire world. The weapon worked, she now knew, and it had the power to destroy Billy Caudwell’s home planet. Sitting back on her throne, exhausted by the exhilaration of the demonstration, she began to outline in her mind the orders that would finally avenge the defeat suffered at Caudwell’s hands. She had seen Collizon annihilated, planet Earth would go the same way very, very soon.

For the Bardomil Empress, that day couldn’t come soon enough.

About the Book

Book II The Burning SunThe adventure continues for Billy Caudwell, the teenage First Admiral of the Universal Alliance Fleet.

The Bardomil Empress, eager to avenge the defeat of her Imperial Fleet at the hands of Billy Caudwell, acquires a weapon that can generate super-charged solar flares and incinerate entire planets.  Having tested the weapon, the Empress discovers a strategic territorial weakness in Billy’s Alliance and launches the solar flare weapon at Planet Earth as a diversion to a full-scale assault on the Alliance.  Billy Caudwell, still trying to stay on top of his dangerous double life, now has to protect Earth and save the Alliance from annihilation.

And, as if that’s not enough, Billy also has girl troubles!

Author Bio

 The author, William J.Benning was born in Dumfries (south west Scotland) in 1963. With his 50th birthday fast approaching, Benning has decided to grow old disgracefully. An intensely private individual, Benning recently returned to his home town seeking inspiration for his passion of creative writing. At age 18, Benning left home to take an Honours Degree in Psychology at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. He has some very fond memories, and many nights of vague recollection – which are, on the whole, probably best forgotten (!) – from his student days. After graduating, Benning had a career “false start” moving into the world of Pest Control Management. However, after several unhappy years, he switched tack and took further qualifications in Personnel Management, carving out a successful and enjoyable career in Human Resources as well as Learning & Development. Throughout his career, Benning has worked to support the activities of the British Red Cross.

From his early days as a First Aid Volunteer, he enjoyed working for the organisation which gave him further skills and built his self-confidence. Progressing within British Red Cross, Benning became a First Aid Instructor (Trainer), Assessor and Lecturer plus becoming invoved in training other Trainers and Assessors. Having returned to Dumfries to further his writing career, Benning now lives alone, but has been adopted by four members of the Canine Community. With four dogs in his life – and a newly arrived litter of Tibetan Terrier pups – plus a newly published novel, life is never going to be dull for Benning. William likes his sci-fi, but is also keen on military history and speculative fiction. Among his fiction favourites are Harry Turtledove, the late George MacDonald Fraser, Bernard Cornwell and Clive Cussler. William collects Edinburgh Crystal and has a terrible weakness for malt whisky. He has published his novel First Admiral with Malachite Quills in 2012.


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