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Parallax Red

Modified on 2011/12/13 20:03 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Outlanders

   We dance on the angle,
From the edges we dangle
   and circle the parallax square -
When the fires of night consume us,
   we've gone only so far as we dare.

   - "Millenium Fever"
   by Gavin Nebraska
   Explorer Press, Mt Airy NC, Dec 2000

   The book opens with a squad of Magistrates riding a Sandcat near Washington Hole. Their destination is Redoubt Papa; they've been sent there by Baron Sharpe to check it for the presence of the Cerberus Crew.
   They arrive at the redoubt and go inside, where they immediately sense that something is not right - they find what appear to be handprints on the floor, along with parallel marks. They come to a door and open it, but there's nothing beyond but darkness. A flash of red light emerges from the darkness, turning one of the men to goo. The others panic and start to flee; the light hits another in the head, killing him. Three of the four make it to the Sandcat ahead of their leader, whom they're fully willing to leave behind. The light beam lances from the redoubt and blows up the vehicle, then arcs downward to melt the leader into the rocks.
   Meanwhile, in the Black Hills, Grant, Kane, and Brigid are planting charges to bring down the rocks over the only access road to the redoubt. The original plan was to set them on proximity triggers, to be set off in case some Mags come looking for them, but that plan goes out the window when a group of Roamers shows up with several slaves from the local Indian tribes in tow.
   Kane comes up with a plan to bluff them into turning back, but their leader, Le Loup Garou, is unwilling to back down - doing so would make him lose face with his followers. Kane blows the charges, burying most of the group, and the rest are killed in the ensuing firefight. Kane and Le Loup Garou end up in single combat; Garou is about to finish him off when an arrow streaks out of nowhere to hit him in the neck. He falls on top of Kane, who has the good sense to raise his knife and impale the man, finishing him off. Kane sees an Indian nearby, who yells "Wopila, Hota Wanagi! Wopila!" ("Thanks, Gray Ghost! Thanks!") then rides off with the former slaves.
   They return to the redoubt and report in to Lakesh, then Bry alerts them to someone using the mat-trans in Redoubt Papa. The problem is, they can't figure out the destination - something's blocking their sensors. Lakesh decides they need to go investigate, to recover the memory banks from the gate itself... and the only one who can pull the data is Lakesh himself.
   Since they have some downtime before the next mission, Kane goes to the infirmary, where DeFore tells him that he's suffering from PTSD and needs to take some downtime. She also mentions that she's already discussed this with Brigid, much to Kane's dismay. After being treated, he storms off.
   Brigid, meanwhile, goes to the pool. She runs into Rouch there, who tells Brigid what she (Rouch) is actually doing at Cerberus - she was brought there by Lakesh to mate with Kane and produce offspring. After this revelation, Kane bursts into the pool room, ignoring Rouch, and confronts Brigid. She, in turn, tells him why Rouch is there. Afterward, she confronts Lakesh, who tells her that she may well be sterile due to the radiation in the Gobi Desert.
   As they're discussing things, Bry notes another anomalous use of the mat-trans system - someone else is jumping to Redoubt Papa. Lakesh tells Brigid to get a team together.
   Since the mags sent to Redoubt Papa haven't returned, Baron Sharpe decides to send another team to find the first one. This time, he's coming too, along with his advisor, Crawler.
   Kane, Brigid, and Lakesh jump to Redoubt Papa. After finding evidence of recent occupation, Lakesh sets to work on recovering the data, while Kane and Brigid do a recce. They find tracks and the body of a transadapt. After examining the body, Kane finds shell casings (Mag-issue), and Brigid steps in the remains of one of the liquefied bodies. They find the headless man, which confirms their suspicions about the Mags being there. She tells Lakesh to come see when he's done; meanwhile, Kane opens the main door to take a look outside. He spots another smear of black (another dead Mag) before Brigid calls him back inside.
   Lakesh takes one look at the remains and identifies the weapon - an MD (molecular destabilizer) gun. Kane goes to close the main door and hears something, so he peeks outside; three gunships carrying Baron Sharpe and his men are landing nearby. He quickly closes the door and hurries to rejoin his companions.
   Sharpe is the first up to the door; he knocks on it and asks whoever is inside to open it. Ericson, the lead Mag, asks him to step away, and Sharpe asks Crawler what colors he sees. Crawler says there are only "friends from afar" inside awaiting his arrival to play a game. Ericson, undaunted, demands that they act like they're in hostile territory, so Sharpe asks for his weapon. Ericson hands it over, and Sharpe promptly puts it under the man's jaw and pulls the trigger. He then inputs the entry code and opens the door.
   As they're hurrying back to the mat-trans, Kane's night-vision feed goes out and he falls down the stairs while carrying the dead troll. He's mostly unhurt, except for a twisted knee, but it's enough to slow him down. He urges the others to go on ahead. He fires a single round up the stairs at the group following, hoping to discourage them. Crawler convinces Sharpe that it's part of the game, so Sharpe happily fires off a burst from his weapon back down the stairs, then heads down, followed (at a distance) by the three Mags.
   Crawler tells Sharpe that his new friends don't want to play with the Mags, so Sharpe tells them to stay behind; when they don't listen, he fires off a burst - it doesn't hurt them in their armor, but it drives them off. Alone, Sharpe and Crawler advance down the corridor, whereupon Kane steps out of the shadows. Crawler, who was expecting him, tells him to kill Sharpe, but Kane refuses. Crawler then asks Sharpe to put him out of his misery; Sharpe points the gun at Crawler's head, and Kane shoots Sharpe in the chest, fatally wounding him. He leaves the pair behind, Crawler consoling the dying baron.
   Back in the Cerberus redoubt, Lakesh (with help from Bry) finally decodes the data from the gate and finds that the origination point is nowhere on Earth - it's from Parallax Red, a space station on the far side of the Moon.
   The next day, Grant, Kane, and Brigid suit up and teleport to Parallax Red. They explore a bit, then Kane accidentally opens a shutter facing the sun, blinding them all. When he closes it and they regain their sight, they spot another troll - this one alive and armed with a chain and grappling hook. He attacks the trio, but they manage to subdue him. They point him back toward the elevator he came from, and he hits the "D" button. When they emerge at the bottom level, they hear harp music, which puts them to sleep.
   Brigid awakens first to find herself alone in a small room, confined by an energy field. A voice comes over the intercom, questioning her; when she starts to gasp and choke from lack of oxygen (that section of the station has only recently gotten life-support restored), the door opens and Sindri walks in with an oxygen mask.
   Kane and Grant, meanwhile, awaken to find themselves in a spherical room with no gravity. As they're gaining their bearings, the lights come up, revealing several trolls, one of whom is holding a harp. One of them, the one they subdued earlier, tells them to climb up a rope ladder through the ceiling. After crawling through several tunnels, they eventually emerge into a huge room dominated by an Olmec stone head, also filled with hundreds of artifacts, crates of weapons and materiel, and lab equipment. Sindri and Brigid meet them there, and Sindri escorts the trio to a living space.
   After giving them some water, he reveals that he and his trolls originall came from Mars, from a colony, and has Elle demonstrate the harp's healing powers on Kane. It creates indescribable pain, but heals his knee and a the cut along his ribs. They strike a deal for the trade of information, whereupon Sindri takes them in a ride in an electric cart around the station. He shows them the GRASER gun, a massive gamma-ray weapon designed to shoot down ICBMs, along with the MD gun. He takes them back to his quarters and gives them food and wine, then has Elle put them to sleep again as he says that he's going to pick their minds for information.
   After walking through their memories, Brigid wakes briefly to find herself and the men strapped down to gurneys; they're being harvested for their sperm and eggs. Sindri, surprised, has Elle put her back to sleep.
   They awaken again, this time on Mars. After feeding them again, he takes them to a theater and shows them a recorded presentation made by predark scientists about Cydonia and the transadapts, which explains how everything came to be. He then explains that the Danaan created a broadcasting tower that continually plays a song that was originally supposed to be deadly to Archons. After Sindri's father was exiled and he started messing with it, it became deadly to all life, though it worked far more slowly.
   Sindri then takes them out to the pyramid via a monorail, where they meet his father. Sindri demands that his father turn the song off, but the old man can't. As they turn to leave, his father shakes Grant's hand and traces an X on his palm.
   When they return to the colony, Sindri takes Brigid off alone, and the men are confined in his quarters. Grant tells Kane about the X, which is likely where the mat-trans is located. Kane finds a book on the shelf with blueprints of the colony, but it's not very clear; the best he can figure is that they're somewhere nearby. Since the door is guarded, Kane pops off an air vent and crawls into it; it will likely lead to the main oxygen-pumping station, where he can manipulate the oxygen content to make the transadapts (who are acclimated to lower levels) drunk.
   Meanwhile, Brigid tells Sindri that his plan to use her ova along with Kane and Grant's sperm won't work - she's barren. Sindri, conversely, reveals that his plan to revitalize the transadapts is just a smokescreen. What he really wants is to use the GRASER to destroy Mars; the resulting debris will crash into Earth, devastating the remaining population, get rid of the barons, and open the way for him to take over. He wants Brigid by his side as his queen, and he's willing to rape her if necessary. She, of course, wants no part of that.
   While she's busy fighting off the dwarf, Kane makes his way through the ducts to the pumping station, where he increases the oxygen flow. He also finds the gravity controls, which he decreases to 0G. When Grant is sure that the air is richer, he bangs on the door. Elle is outside, drunk on oxygen-rich air, and he quickly overpowers her, then grabs the harp and uses it to pulverize her face. Kane emerges from the pumping station to see four trolls guarding the door to the medical bay, which is where Sindri took Brigid. One of the trolls challenges him, so he smacks it down and opens the doors just as the gravity resets. Sindri crashes to the floor, but escapes, and Kane and Brigid overpower the remaining trolls then go in search of Grant.
   Brigid tells them of Sindri's plans, so they recover their weapons, hurry to the mat-trans, and jump to the station. Sindri, who has access to their helmet radios, leads them to the GRASER station, where he's holding the MD gun. He forces Brigid to stand beside him, then tries to use the MD on the men, but Kane (who brought the harp along) uses the harp to damage it. Brigid disarms Sindri of the remote, and Kane guides the MD toward the GRASER, then uses the harp to make the MD explode, incidentally destroying the GRASER and causing a hull breach (presumably killing Sindri as well). They hurry back to the mat-trans, unsure if the damage they caused will prove fatal to the station as a whole, and jump back to Earth.
   The next day, the Cerberus gate activates; when they open the door, they find Sindri's walking stick inside - a mocking reminder that he's still alive.

DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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