Duke Ross is unusual for a brash young fighter pilot. Underneath the head strong and cocky exterior is the heart of a family man who loves his wife and child, and enjoys the peace presented by an unusual, non-aggressive martial art. As hostile invaders from the stars tear his world out from under him, Duke finds himself becoming the chosen champion of alien beings that wish to defend the Earth, and restore its rightful peace in the galaxy. They bestow upon him a secret which can unlock an unimaginable power, and grant the Earth and humanity it’s salvation. But the journey to the mythical Air Force base in the Nevada desert, known to pilots as “Dreamland,” will be long and dangerous for a pilot without wings… Accompanied by his faithful wingman, an incorrigible ex-girlfriend turned reporter, and a few other skilled allies, Duke must complete a sojourn across a devastated American landscape. They must fight their way past and elude a very persistent alien general, who has made it his mission to capture Duke and the technology he holds. But not even Duke knows the full extent of the secret power he carries, or what will be revealed when he reaches his goal. And in the shadows an even more sinister and ancient power plots the downfall of much more than just the tiny island fortress known as “Earth”.
Prologue: The Class 5 Race Scramble! Scramble! Scramble! The alert blared into her mind like a shrill scream, making her large eyes water as she headed for the hanger at full speed. She was of the family of the Pulsing Star, and those familiar with her recognized her naming image as the morning sun of her home world, which she had not seen in perhaps twenty full orbits. She doubted now she would ever see that home again. Her language was one of images. The images being communicated to her now were stark and dire. This was not going to be a battle they could win. However, winning was not her objective. She had her mission, and the rest of the small task force had theirs. Her feet made light whooshing sounds as she skated lightly on a cushion of air down the shiny metallic surface of the artificially lit hallway leading to the starfighter hanger. She bent her body forward, keeping a careful posture and letting one of her long, sinewy arms swing low to the ground as she skated. She entered the hanger at nearly the exact moment that her many comrades were exiting their own skating chutes. They all reached their sleek matte black spacecraft at nearly the same instant as well, and as they did each sent a small feeling of well wishing and hopes for survival. The present attack by the enemy was quite unexpected. It was true that the potential value in capturing the world was great, but an illegal attack on the world of a class 5 developing race in this manner was deemed too bold for the enemy. An attack such as this was by all logic a waste of resources at this point in the war. Not to mention, the risk to the enemy war effort increased the further away they sent battle groups from the central tactical lines of the ongoing conflict. But the numbers and size of the starships entering the system indicated the enemy was indeed risking a large fleet to take a planet that was just about as far away from the main tactical systems as one could get. The job of the small outpost she was assigned to was a simple one. The only directive was to be watchful of this planet, and to alert the main forces of any activity in the system. Therefore her outpost was far from prepared for an all out attack. Nevertheless, it was their mandate to protect the planet for as long as they could. The size of the attacking force made the enemy’s intentions clear. Her orders in this situation were also clear, and they were known only to a select few. As she gracefully encased herself in the flight chamber of her tiny starfighter, she removed an item from a pouch at her side that was for her knowledge only. The device itself would block any mental waves of its existence, even from the strongest telepaths of her people. A light glowed in her hand as she slid the object into its proper chamber in the console of her ship. The source intelligence was in place. It would now guide her to the appropriate location. All she had to do now was make it through the battle raging on out in space. Her ship launched easily at full speed down the triangular prism tunnel, the warm pink guiding lights on each of the three walls elongating into a single pink line of light as her ship rapidly picked up speed. Then she was embraced by stars and crisscrossing flashes of green light. Dawn of the Pulsing Star did not check in or acknowledge with the rest of the squadrons. She tried to mix herself as best she could into the fray, and found herself being targeted by the enemy immediately. She could not call for help. She wasn’t officially there. There were three of them, shaped like flat docile creatures of the great seas of many worlds, but colored an angry red to communicate their deadly intent. They swarmed her, predators of this great black sea, and her tiny triangular ship was a prized morsel of prey. She was at a severe tactical disadvantage trying to run from three pursuers, and the safe move would have been to turn and fight. Yet she could not afford to lose time getting mixed up in a prolonged turning fight just to improve her chances of survival. Scanning the chaos around her, she headed for the largest swirling mass of fighter spacecraft, hoping her allies would instinctively jump some of her pursuit. She took several hits as she rolled her ship in a dizzying spin, twice as many more flashes of deadly green plasma blasts zipped past her canopy as she arced her ship in a dive across the noses of two of her allies. The ploy worked. Her allies gave up the targets they had been chasing and came after hers. Two of the enemy spilt off and became part of the mass engagement. There was an explosion to her right, and she felt a comrade’s mind cease to function. Two more brilliant fireballs appeared above her as she took pot shots at an enemy ship that zipped across her nose. In the distance, the massive dark shape of the carrier she had launched from was spinning lazily with several fiery geysers erupting into space. The mighty ship fought on despite being heavily damaged, determined to hold off two organic shaped cruisers of the invading enemy. More jarring vibrations through her shields let Dawn know she still had a pursuer. Time was running out, she needed to get down to the planet – and fast. She threw her fighter into full reverse, hurtling at a right angle out from behind the dark side of the planet’s single moon. She zipped toward the stars, then looped between two behemoth star vessels, one onyx and trapezoidal, the other organic and bristling with weaponry as they exchanged their deadly light show. An explosion from one of the ships blew out a jet of fiery vapor which flash froze around her canopy. Blinded, she flew on instruments and the guidance of the intelligence, which emitted its strange glow from her console as it spoke to her mind. It led her into the atmosphere of the planet, on an intercept course with some of the deadliest of her foe. The enemy was preparing to use their most terrible weapon all over the unsuspecting world. Her heart ached as she realized her people would not be able to stop most of the weapons in time. The fate of this world was all up to her now. Her maneuvers had shaken her initial pursuit, but now she had new problems. The intelligence was pained. She was off course, but she had to follow the battle. She needed to try and follow a different grouping of combatants as soon as she could. Her destination would be over an ancient stretch of desert. Her canopy began to clear in the warmer air of the planet, and the improved visibility allowed her to snap her fighter ninety degrees to her right just in time to avoid a pair of the enemy as they strafed by in a head on pass. The enemy did not maneuver to follow her. Why? Dawn realized with horror that the class 5 race was attempting to fight. She could not believe their foolishness as their plainly outclassed atmospheric bound machines attempted to shoot explosive weapons propelled by fossils fuels. The blood red fighters of the enemy acknowledged this bravery by destroying the inferior flying machines one by one. Dawn kept trying to avoid the battle, keeping her distance and watching as two dark grey aircraft propelled themselves after one of their off world enemy in a vertical climb, the flames of their combustion engine exhausts glowing white hot as they strived to keep pace long enough to spew fiery red projectile rounds at their targets. The blood red spacecraft simply spun in place in the middle of the sky and incinerated first one, then the other aircraft with just two shots. A maneuver like this was tactically insane in a space fight, as every star pilot knew movement was life. But against aircraft that had no choice but to continue forward motion, and lacking any shielding, the tactic proved deadly. By the time the locals realized what they were up against, it would be too late. Dawn of the Pulsing Star now had a conflict; did she press with her mission at all costs, or try to assist the brave
Travis Hightower holds a BS in Environmental Science from Texas A&M University and a Master’s in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma. His writing draws on his experience in Human Relations and in the military. He has been an Air Battle Manager in the United States Air Force for eight years and is still diligently serving.