Arcane Lights

Book One of A Shadow Among the Stars

From the stars they came. They rained fire upon the Earth, ravaging the lands and condemning the planet to wither as an irradiated wasteland. The Varden. The name that struck fear in to the hearts of Humanity.

Then the Psions were born, the perfect unity between man and machine, dragging Humanity from the fringe of defeat. They drove the Varden from the planet. They ensured that the world saw a tomorrow free of the alien threat.

Even with the war long past, the name of the Varden lingers ripe in the memory. All that remains of civilisation cowers in the two-tiered country of New America, where society has become fractured and bleak. The rich live a lifestyle free and happy, their wealth perpetuated by the ruling ARC government, while the poor barely live at all.

When the Arcane Lights break through the Earth’s surface next to their last stronghold, Humanity are reminded once more of the Varden, fearing that it heralds the imminent return of their ancient foe. Called back in to action, the Psions must once more protect their creators against the threat of extinction. Only this time, their enemy has evolved, fighting a more intimate and subversive war.

An Excerpt from Arcane Lights

Prologue

A soft red light illuminated the cramped transit hold of the Pegasus carrier, the only sound the dull purr of the VTOL engines, one on either wing, barely penetrating the thick armour of the craft. The quiet was an omen to these Centurions. Looking around, Neesa took in their sombre features. They sat along either side of the hold, facing the centre, eyes aimed at the ground. Most of these men had never seen battle. They had been trained in simulations, blooded only by the virtual enemies they had killed. The war with the Varden had ended long before these soldiers had even been born. They had grown up with nothing but stories.

            Yes, the stories were enough to plague dreams and pull them into the realm of nightmare. But those nightmares would never do justice to the true face of their enemy. Neesa had seen that face. So had the six other Psions sat alongside her. They had been created to fight the invading enemy forces. The minds of the most willing and capable soldiers placed in these cybernetic shells, perfectly constructed to counter the alien threat.

           Human minds. Still very much subject to suffer the plague of horror.

           The Varden were that horror. The Psions had helped win the war. They had helped eradicate the Varden from the Earth. But that war would be forever forged in to their thoughts, waiting to flare behind the blackness of closed eyes.

            “Over one-hundred and fifty years ago we drove the Varden from our planet,” called the voice of Legate Zane Okafor. “We rid the surface of their armies. We reclaimed this planet for ourselves once more.”

            His voice was booming, encompassing, carrying the pride as if he had fought in that war himself. He had not. His tone was claiming a victory that he had not earned.

            “They destroyed our homes,” he continued. “They poisoned the surface of the planet. New America. The ARC Government. Us. That is all that remains. But we made sure we lived on. We made sure we fought, and we made sure that we won.”

            The one-hundred Centurions cheered as one, casting aside their lugubrious wallow. The Tribune and the Prefect cheered along. Neesa knew that the Centurions on the four trailing Pegasus crafts, where the Legate’s voice was no doubt being broadcast, joined in the applause. Those who fought that war did not cheer. The Psions. And the Praetorian, sat at the head of the transit hold, the opposite end from Neesa.

            She looked along the mass of soldiers until her gaze rested on Praetorian Sebastian Krell. He had seen the battle. He had fought in it from the beginning. For three hundred years he had graced this planet, and for over a third of that he had known war. He had been forged and hardened by it. He was armoured, not only by his tailored Aramid suit, but also by that experience. Unlike the rest, he wore his helmet, masking his stony gaze. He was staring straight ahead, apparently in to the ether. Beneath that visor, though, behind those twin bright red slits where his eyes would be, Neesa could feel him appraise her in very much the same way she was him. She could feel those weathered eyes resting on her.

            Unfazed, Neesa turned back along the length of the Centurions as their raucous cheer abated. Legate Okafor gestured for quiet, his hands beckoning in a lowering motion.

            “We have not seen the Varden for nearly a century and a half,” he said, his almost black skin merging with the dim surroundings, but the whiteness of his eyes stood out as they widened. “We have not known war since. But we prepare. We train. We carry on as if that day will once again come and we must defend our last remaining country. Our last stronghold. We must be vigilant, for it is in us that the fate of New America will lie.

            “We do not know what we are flying in to. These Arcane Lights that have broken through the surface of our planet, they are not of our making. Are they caused by the Varden? We cannot say. Are they dangerous? We cannot say. What we can say is that we are prepared. We are strong, and we can overcome any threat. We are the Legion, and there is nothing that can stand in our way.”