The Earthborn: Freelancing | Earthborn | Biogenesis | Rimworlds | Rogue | Redemption | Box Set

Freelancing Image


Series: The Earthborn

Book #: 2

Publisher: Quantum Edge Publishing

Published: May 25, 2018




Book 2 of the Earthborn

There is always something scarier out there

After a successful first mission and a month off, Blake Brown and crew head out on a new mission to the remote Zolidack system. A classified research facility has been sighted with the presence of illegal cargo that relates to what they found on their previous mission.

The problem is the system is controlled by the Fredorian Defense Force, a group who dislikes Earthborn of any stripe. The facility is operated by the Dorostatic Initiatives Corporation, which is recovering from a genetic engineering scandal and hates any government intrusion, Earthborn or not.

Getting to the facility is one challenge. Dealing with a new crew problem while doing it is another. To make matters worse, brutal, bug-like Rogundan mercenary slavers have been spotted in the system.

Blake and crew will do all they can to investigate the facility while navigating both internal and external threats. If there’s one thing Earthborn can do well, it’s adapt, and Blake and crew will show everyone how it’s done.

Read the sample below!

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Series Note

This book continues where Earthborn, book 1 of the Earthborn left off. Blake and crew get another mission. In addition to the external issues they'll face, there are some internal ones. The Covendrin make a big appearance in this book, along with more detail on the events from book 1.


Chapter One

Blake Brown eyed the Fredorian Defense Force personnel that he knew he was going to end up kicking the shit out of. He sighed as he eased back into his booth seat. Across from him was Seth Williams. They had decided to get a drink at a bar before the night was out, and Zane Gibbons was on his way out to meet them. It was 8:00 p.m. Earth time, about a month since their last mission, and Blake was getting anxious for the next one.

Waiting around was not too bad; they did have an ambassadorial compound to stay in, with all the resources and privileges that came with it. Although they could have had a drink at the compound, Blake enjoyed being out and seeing others. The bar was packed with FDF that night. A large FDF cruiser had come in, so the uptick in people was not too surprising. One unit in particular seemed to be eying them.

“Busy place,” said Seth as his gaze swept over the crowd.

Blake poured himself a shot of cinnamon whiskey. “Sure is. Almost feels like we’re back in the freelancing days.”

“Yeah, except I’m actually not fearing being in a bar now. I forgot what it was like to not be beat down on a weekly basis.”

Blake laughed. “You know you fucking loved it.”

Seth shrugged.

Several men approached the booth.

The first man sneered. “You Blake Brown?”

Blake eyed the men. They wore FDF officer uniforms, white with gray segmented lines and a highlight of blue and silver. As they had been giving tough looks all night, their arrival was not unexpected. Blake raised his head toward the first man, who seemed the youngest of the bunch. “Yeah, who wants to know?”

“Tomas Flenders,” he said. He crooked a thumb off to the left. “That’s Chrisol.” He nodded to the right. “And that’s Kruschom.”

“Okay … what do you want?” asked Blake.

Tomas drew his lips to the right. “You did something to my brother. He jumps at his own shadow now and has had a few nervous breakdowns. All he does is ask if you’re around. I’ve been waiting for you to show up here.” He raised his head a bit. “What’d you do to him?”

“I busted him trying to sexually assault my crew member,” said Blake, smiling, baring his fangs. “You think I’m gonna let that slide? Let someone attack my crew? I don’t think so. I let him live. He should be thankful, and you and your friends should be too.”

Tomas clenched his jaw for a moment. “I heard you’re a Daedrould, and you can do some … suggestion thing. You did that, didn’t you?”

“No … and as hard as this might be to understand, your brother is just a bitch. He almost saw his life slip away. Glimpsing death can be scary … to the weak.”

“Fuck you,” said Tomas.

Blake narrowed his eyes. “You should leave. I don’t want to … break … you too. Maybe being a bitch runs in the family.”

“You gonna take that shit?” asked Chrisol, looking at Tomas while gesturing at Blake.

“Yeah, fuck ’im up,” said Kruschom.

Blake smiled again, fangs exposed. “Just go back and drink your beer. I can see right through your … toughness.”

Tomas began to breathe harder.

A moment of awkward silence passed.

“Like your brother the bitch,” said Blake.

Tomas’s face reddened as he reached in to grab Blake.

Blake reared back and used his right arm to push Tomas’s arms to the table and pin them.

Tomas struggled to pull away.

Blake used his other arm to hit Tomas in the face several times.

Seth jumped out of the booth and punched Chrisol. Kruschom kicked Seth in the stomach, causing him to fall over.

Blake pushed Tomas sprawling into several tables.

Chrisol squared his jaw and then swung at Blake as he slid out of the booth.

Blake ducked and threw an uppercut.

Chrisol flew into the ceiling and then fell down on Kruschom.

Blake grabbed Kruschom by the neck and lifted him off the ground. “I didn’t start this … but I will end it.”

As Chrisol and Tomas started to stand, they flew past Blake and into the bar counter.

Blake glanced over and saw Zane.

“All this fun and you didn’t wait for me,” said Zane. He strode over to Chrisol and Tomas, who were struggling to get up. “Should I wreck ’em? Break some bones?”

Blake tossed Kruschom to the ground and then stood in front of Tomas. “Nah … I think they learned their lesson.” He focused on Tomas. “I bet you’re wondering about now … Is Blake Brown going to drink me dry?”

Tomas and his friends looked at each other with confused expressions.

Seth laughed. “C’mon, Blake.”

“All right, all right,” said Blake, grinning and baring his fangs. “I thought I’d check. Here’s the situation. You can walk out of here now and I’ll forget this incident, or you can try for a second round and I’ll use a … suggestion … to make sure this never happens again.” He raised a finger. “I caution you, though … if you choose to go again, you and your friends will be laid up in recovery for the next few weeks. What’s it gonna be?”

Tomas stood and licked his lips. “We’ll go.”

Zane laughed.

Blake pointed at Tomas. “I admire you trying to stick up for your family. You got more balls than your brother, but know this … Gary is a piece of shit, and I think you know that. Don’t let his crap get on you. Now go.”

Tomas and the others fled the scene.

Zane glanced at Seth. “You looked like you got hit.”

“Kicked, actually,” said Seth with a hand over his stomach. “I swear, bars are a curse to me now. I thought I was past all that.”

Zane smiled and took a seat after Blake and Seth took theirs in the booth. He crooked a thumb back toward the entrance and faced Blake. “Jarvis was looking for you.”

Blake sat up in his seat. “For what?”

“Not sure. I told him where you were, and he said for me to tell you ‘moist biscuits,’” said Zane, laughing.

“Are you sure he said that?”

“Pretty damn sure. I thought maybe he was taking crazy pills or something,” said Zane. “Maybe I don’t want to know what that means …”

Seth laughed.

Blake sighed and motioned for Zane to scoot out. “I need to go then.”

“What?” asked Seth.

“Ranger thing,” said Blake. He slid out of the booth. “If I have time, I’ll come back. If not, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Zane popped back into the booth. “All right, enjoy your … moist biscuits.”

Seth and Zane burst out laughing.

Zane glanced at Seth. “Just me and you then.”

“Works for me,” said Seth.

Blake nodded at them both, then headed out. Jarvis’s code phrase was meant to be used whenever he wanted to speak in private at the nearest safe point, which in this case was the basement of a nearby building. Blake activated his chameleon shield. After a brisk ten-minute walk, he entered the dark basement. His vampiric vision showed Jarvis leaning against the wall a bit away. “You can’t hide from me.”

Jarvis smiled as he approached. “Wish I had night vision like you without having to wear goggles.” He looked around. “We’re secure.” He closed the basement door and activated a light on his shoulder, illuminating the surrounding area.

“So what’s going on?” asked Blake.

Jarvis sighed. “The FDF has knowledge of your last mission, and I mean intimate-detail-level knowledge.”

“How do you know this?”

“I still have my sources in the FDF. I consider them trustworthy,” said Jarvis.

Blake grimaced. “How intimate are we talking?”

“Supposedly they have a video feed of your debriefing, in addition to some of your … ship briefings.”

“Hmm. That means we have a leak … or we’ve been hacked.”

Jarvis nodded. “I hope it’s a hack, for your sake. That’s much easier to clean up.”

Blake sighed. “Me too.”

“Nonetheless, I’d suggest you watch for any unusual behavior. Ada can probably scan the ship for signs of tampering … assuming you trust her. She does have the means to hack you.”

“Yeah, but no motive, at least not one I’m aware of. She’s happy to be where she is … although she did find out everything about our first meeting with relative ease.”

Jarvis raised a finger. “True, but if she was malicious, she could have ended this on Zakara Prime with no problems.”

“This is going to be tough,” said Blake.

Jarvis smiled. “Well, you’ll get to deal with it tomorrow morning at nine. Rakar wants a meeting, same place as the debriefing.”

“Why would he want to have it in a potentially vulnerable spot?”

Jarvis looked away for a moment. “Because you’re the only person I’ve told about this situation.”

Blake raised his head a bit. “Oh … well … then I owe you one.”

“No, you don’t. We’re brothers for life, man. I can’t count how many times you’ve saved my ass, even when everything was against me.”

Blake swallowed hard. “All right, all right, don’t go getting all sentimental on me.”

“I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. The next code phrase is dust rocks,” said Jarvis with a grin.

Blake laughed. “That’s a lot better than moist biscuits. Zane thinks there’s something crazy going on between us now.”

“I bet he does,” said Jarvis, sharing in the laughter.

“All right, I’ll take caution in the coming mission then,” said Blake. He extended his arm and did a forearm shake with Jarvis. “Until next time.”

Scene Break

Blake exhaled as he sat in the debriefing room that he had been in during their last mission. It was 9:00 a.m., and Rakar was late. The thought that someone was betraying his crew had kept Blake’s mind tumbling all night long. He went through all the scenarios where information could have been leaked, and there were several opportunities, but if it was someone in his crew, that was another level of betrayal. It seemed even Jarvis did not know whom to trust.

Blake ran a hand over his mouth. He would get to the bottom of it. Letting enemies know your game plan was a surefire way to end up in a bad situation. His attention focused on Rakar entering the room. He wore a green-and-black two-piece outfit and looked like he could jump into a mission if he needed to.

“A little late today, aren’t we?” asked Blake, wagging a finger at Rakar.

“I’m sorry about that. I was helping Andia with something.”

Helping … Is that what you kids are calling it these days?”

Rakar laughed. “Nothing like that.” He took a seat next to Blake. “However, we do have your second mission.”

Blake sat up in his chair. “Where we headed?”

Rakar interacted with the table console, causing the large screen ahead of them to turn on.

Satellite images appeared showing a facility nestled in a jungle.

“We picked these up a few days ago,” said Rakar. “It’s an FDF facility called Hadrassus, on a planet called Markus II in the Zolidack system.”

Blake narrowed his eyes. “I heard the FDF took over that area.”

“Yes, and all records of that event have disappeared. However … I received some images from a probe. It was destroyed, but not before transmitting what it saw.”

“Looks like Hadrassus is a secret facility then,” said Blake. “That wouldn’t be uncommon with the FDF.”

The screen changed to show a spaceport. Large white cylindrical capsules were being moved off ships.

“Look familiar?” asked Rakar.

Blake remembered fighting creatures during the previous mission that came from capsules like those on the screen. The creatures were experiments of Delkis, a criminal who was being controlled by a black slime. “Yeah … they do. I bet those capsules have more experiments in them, and our slime friend or its friends are involved, just like on our last mission on Zakara Prime. I also bet that what we’re seeing is just the top of the facility.”

“You’re right on both counts. I suspect we’ll learn more about the slime by investigating those capsules,” said Rakar.

The screen changed to show the crosscut view of a massive underground structure.

“It’s quite extensive,” said Rakar.

Blake sighed. “And I take it that it’s heavily defended. Does the FDF know you’ve got images of the capsules?”

“No, they don’t, and it needs to stay that way. Although Hadrassus is registered with the FDF, it’s classified at the highest level.”

The screen changed to show a Fredorian in a dark-gray one-piece suit segmented with silver lines. The bald man was fair skinned and stood around six foot one.

“Hadrassus is operated by the Dorostatic Initiatives Corporation in conjunction with the FDF. They have Administrator Cadris Zoldan running operations there.”

“Dorostatic Initiatives … weren’t they busted a while back for their involvement in illegal genetic engineering?” asked Blake.

“They were. Their presence at Hadrassus is concerning, especially when it comes to our slime friend. Nonetheless, the Zolidack system is controlled by the FDF, but the presidential guard has clearance, so they can enter both the system and Hadrassus. That doesn’t mean the FDF and Dorostatic Initiatives would like for that to happen. Another thing, entering the system requires checking in with the Storetz, an FDF cruiser guarding that system. Furthermore … ,” said Rakar.

The screen changed to show circular flat ships with a large rectangular section in the middle.

“Rogundans,” said Blake, grimacing. He had never liked the Rogundans. They reminded him of what a beetle with the head of an ant would look like if it was human sized and humanoid in overall shape. They had a large black-and-red shell on their backs, multiple arms, and two stout legs. While not the fastest, their sheer strength, ferocious disposition, and desire for violence made them popular in merc circles, in particular the slave trade. He knew from personal experience they had no qualms about killing others, even their own. They also had a bad habit of eating humans and other aliens.

Rakar nodded. “There seems to be quite a few of them. I suspect whatever is happening in those facilities includes slaves.”

“Sounds pleasant,” said Blake. “I have a bounty on me from a Rogundan crew. Let one live … and see how I’m repaid?”

“You gave them a choice, and it sounds like they didn’t want to take advantage of it.”

Blake shrugged. “It is what it is. So I guess then our mission is to visit the facility and find out what’s going on. That’s going to require Ada to get in and hack their system.”

“Yes, and sadly, I can’t tell you more than what these images show. Although you can get in … finding anything, especially when they don’t want you there, could be dangerous,” said Rakar. “What I can tell you is that there have been some scientists from the Skorith research space station who have been reassigned there, but their status has since … disappeared … from the official records.”

“You think something bad happened. We can look into it. Before we check in with the Storetz, there’s a system outside Zolidack I want to stop in at. It has a colony on a jungle moon.”

“What’s there?” asked Rakar.

“The colony is called Lono Hara, and I have some old friends there. I haven’t seen them in a while. If something is going on in the Zolidack system, they’ll have an idea. If anything, maybe it will give us an advantage.”

“I knew you were the right person for this group.”

Blake tossed his hands out to the side. “Of course, I’m Blake Brown.”

Rakar laughed.

Although Blake was sure it was not Rakar that leaked information, it was unusual to not trust him with the information Jarvis had provided.

“On another topic, how’s the crew doing? It’s been a month since your last mission.”

Blake tilted his head. “Seth’s been doing good. He’s been training hard with Sarah. I suspect he’s tired of getting his ass kicked, although last night, it was his stomach that got kicked.”

Rakar shook his head. “I heard about that. Sarah doing all right?”

“Yeah, she’s a tough cookie, really proved herself on the last mission,” said Blake.

“And … you had a blood bond with her?”

Blake cleared his throat. “Well, I didn’t do it to out of lust, but yeah, we had a bond for a few days. I kept my distance other than a few times. A human experiencing a blood bond for the first time can give in to their raw desires, especially if that bond is with an ancient vampire of my status. I didn’t want to mess up the team dynamic with that.”

“Understood. See? You’re thinking like a leader now,” said Rakar, poking his finger in the air at Blake.

“Yeah … I guess, but you know the blood bond works both ways.”

Rakar grinned. “I’m sure it was rough. How is Zane holding up?”

“He’s doing okay. Most of the time he’s out and about. He doesn’t hang around the compound much.”

Rakar rubbed his chin. “Interesting.”

“Luke has spent most of his time working on the Exceltion. That man loves that ship.”

“Yes, he was a good choice. I’m still a bit surprised he hung around maintaining it all those years. It was … an unusual decision.”

Blake shrugged. “That’s his thing. As for Kane, he seems to spend a lot of time at various clubs. He’s also been studying the Exceltion’s systems in more detail. We’ve had a few meetings where he’s proposed ideas.”

“Another excellent choice,” said Rakar. “I wish we would have done something like this in the rangers long ago.”

“An Earthborn unit or specialized groups?”


Blake smiled. “I’m with you there. As for Ada, she’s with Seth whenever he has free time.”

“You think they have something going on, don’t you?”

“Of course. I know Seth. She’s right up his alley.”

Rakar eyed Blake. “You know personal relationships can compromise missions …”

“Yeah, but given that we don’t know if we’re walking away from any given mission, I’m allowing it. Sometimes it’s better to get a taste than to have none at all. Mental health and all that. Besides … are you sure you’re the one to be giving that advice?” asked Blake with a big grin.

“Fair enough,” said Rakar. “I didn’t know you were a psychologist now.”

“Whatever works,” said Blake. “I’d rather the crew be happy however they find it.” He tilted his head. “I’ve been around for over four centuries. Happiness is fleeting. If you see an opportunity for it, you grab it, and hold on to it, because it will go away in time. Enjoy the moment for what it is.”

Rakar drew his head back. “You’re four times older than me. It’s … hard for me to believe you’re so old, but you speak wisdom that can only be borne of multiple lifetimes of experience.”

“Don’t I know it,” said Blake, grinning, his fangs bared.

“Speaking of happiness and health, how has your medical AI been performing?”

Blake exhaled from his mouth. “Good. He wants to be called Doc, and the crew seems to have embraced him. Ada said they sometimes talk in cyberspace.”

Rakar rubbed his chin. “Very interesting. You have a solid crew and ship, and I hope this mission turns out as well as the last one.”

“Same,” said Blake. “I’ll get the crew together tomorrow morning.”

Rakar stood and motioned toward the door. “Breakfast?”

“Sure, assuming the mission doesn’t need to start right now,” said Blake with a smile.

Rakar slapped Blake on the back. “Let’s go.”