Upgrade to a better browser, please.

Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Books


Added By: Administrator
Last Updated:


Purchase this book through Purchase this book from Purchase this book from
Author: David Sherman
Dan Cragg
Publisher: Del Rey, 2001
Series: Starfist: Book 6
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags:
Avg Member Rating:
(1 reads / 0 ratings)


Six agents have died hideously trying to penetrate the crime families behind a vast empire of pleasure and debauchery--Now it's up to the Marines to break the circle.

Most people will visit Havanagas only in their dreams, for few can afford the exclusive resort planet that recreates ancient worlds and caters to every taste. Witches are burned at the stake in medieval towns while riotous hordes fill Rome's Coliseum to watch gladiators battle. Even the basest of human lusts are satiated by deadly sex acts and a thriving slave trade.

The crime bosses' control of Havanagas and its people is brutally effective. Now three Marines from Co. L's 3rd Platoon--masquerading as discharged military buddies on holiday--are going in to break the kingpins' bloody stranglehold. From bordellos and rebellious enclaves to the very pit of the Coliseum filled with deadly beasts, Corporal Pasquin and Lance Corporals Claypoole and Dean face certain death with only their wits and skills as weapons. But they're Marines, built to survive. . . .



Getting from highway to the side of the headquarters building was no problem; the Marines' chameleon uniforms easily hid them from the crowds of HQ workers milling about outside during the lunch break. Those same crowds confused the motion detectors and other passive surveillance devices around the building's perimeter so the sensors didn't notice the intruders either. Just where the intelligence report had said it was, they found an open window to an untenanted office.

"Rock," Corporal Kerr said into his helmet radio. His infra screen showed Lance Corporal Rachman Claypoole slithering through the open window. Kerr followed immediately and had to move immediately to keep PFC MacIlargie from landing on him inside the office.

By the time Kerr got to his feet, Claypoole was next to the hallway door. Kerr checked his HUD and shook his head. He was amazed that it didn't show guards in the hallway. But nobody seemed to be there. He thought that was amazing for so large a building. Of course, most of the people who worked at the headquarters were civilians, and civilians didn't act like military personnel.

"Go," he said softly into his radio. Claypoole's next move was the first true test of the infiltration—intelligence didn't know if there were passive surveillance devices in the headquarters' corridors.

Claypoole pushed the door open and darted through. No alarms sounded, but that didn't mean none were blinking somewhere else, alerting guards to the intruders. Kerr tapped Claypoole's invisible shoulder and gave him a push. The three Marines sprinted to the nearest radial corridor and down it to a vending alcove. Kerr rechecked their route on the floor plan in his HUD, made sure his men knew where they were going next, and then they were off once more, soft-footing their way. Their objective was the command center deep in the center of the large building. So far there were no signs of pursuit.

They next stopped outside a door on an inner ring-corridor, and Kerr once more examined the building's floor plan on his HUD. Three green dots indicated the positions of he and his men; the door icon showed its lock was engaged. Five ill- defined red dots inside the room showed where its occupants were. Maybe. The dots were indistinct because his sensors weren't sure the hot spots were people; they could be overheated equipment. The floor plan showed another door lead- ing from the room deeper into the building. It didn't show another route to where they had to go—unless they blasted through a wall. Blasting through a wall was out of the question; for their mission to succeed, they had to infiltrate the interior of the building undetected. They weren't even carrying anything that could blast through a wall.

This was a good test, Kerr thought, of how three Marines could quietly subdue five people. It wasn't a good idea to rush in and try to physically overpower them. Even if the five were trained navy guards instead of ordinary sailors or civilians, the Marines had a distinct advantage since they were effectively invisible in their chameleon uniforms. Three highly trained, invisible Marines bursting in unexpectedly should have little problem subduing five people, even trained security men. But could they do it before one of the five managed to sound the alarm? In any event, they had to get through a locked door before they could deal with whoever was in the room. But breaking the lock would alert the people inside, and if the lock was tied into a security system . . .

The corporal quickly inventoried the equipment available to him. Like the stunguns that were their main weapons, all their grenades, were nonlethal. The flashbang wouldn't do, its bang was too loud, the gas in the coldcock grenade would take seconds to fill the room and knock out the occupants, and one of them might set off an alarm in the interval. The neurophaser grenade worked fast enough to take all five down before they knew what was happening, but it would also affect the three Marines if they didn't give it enough time to stop radiating before they entered—and they didn't have much time. The best items they had were the put-outs— gas-impregnated cloths capable of rendering a normal-size person unconscious in just a couple of seconds if held over the mouth and nose. But they'd work only if the Marines weren't outnumbered, as they were. Of course, they could simply rush in, stunguns blazing, and knock out everyone that way—but if the people were civilians, it wouldn't be right to treat them so roughly.

One of the red dots on the HUD moved toward the door. The door opened and a man in civilian clothes stepped into the corridor. Before he shut the door a female voice asked him to remember the extra sugar in her coffee. He laughed, said, "You're sweet enough without the extra." He let the door swing shut on its own as he turned down the corridor and almost stepped on Kerr's foot.

Kerr moved fast. He threw an arm around the man's chest to lift him off the floor and clamped a hand over his mouth and nose. The man flailed his arms and kicked wildly, but his soft-shod feet only connected with Kerr's shins and made little noise and less damage.

Almost immediately, Claypoole was on the man, his fingers pinching his carotid artery to knock him out. Simultaneously, MacIlargie grabbed the door to keep it from shutting all the way and relocking. The door remained ajar by the width of his gloved fingers.

"Good thinking," Kerr said, "both of you." The comm unit in his helmet transmitted his words to his men and not beyond. They were committed now; the security system might set off an alarm if the door remained held open. They had to go in. He shifted the unconscious man so he held him up with one arm, leaving the other free to give instructions. He made quick marks on his HUD and transmitted them.

MacIlargie flung the door open then dashed through and to the left. Claypoole was right on his heels, darting to the right. Kerr came last and headed straight ahead, holding the unconscious civilian like a shield.

"Back so fast?" the female voice asked. The woman looked up and her eyes bugged when she saw her coworker's inert body advancing on her. It slammed into her and knocked her off her chair before she could scream. To her right, MacIlargie had already stunned one civilian and was shift- ing his stungun's muzzle to another. On the other side, Claypoole had disarmed a navy guard and was engaged in a silent struggle. Fortunately, the sailor, distracted by having to wrestle with an unexpected, invisible opponent, was too panicked to yell out a warning.

Kerr dropped the man and slapped a put-out on the woman's face. She tried to draw a deep breath as she kicked and flailed her arms. The breath was a mistake and she went totally limp.

"Sorry about that," Kerr murmured. He was afraid he might have injured her when he slammed her coworker's body into her.

A rapid-fire thump-thud to his right spun him in that direction. Claypoole's sailor dropped like a rock.

In his infra Kerr saw Claypoole look toward him. "I had to bounce his head off the wall," Claypoole said. "He might have a concussion."

Kerr grunted. Suffering serious injury or getting killed was a chance sailors, soldiers, and Marines took.

"Secure them," he ordered.

In a moment all five people had their wrists cuffed behind their backs and their ankles held together with the self- adhering security bands the Marines carried for that purpose. The Marines used wide tape to close the mouths of the five. Last, they used strong cords to link the people's ankles to their wrists.

One of them, the corridor man, regained consciousness before they were finished.

Kerr knelt next to him and flipped up his shields so the man could see him. "Just lay there and relax," he said. "You're not going anywhere without help, and nobody's seriously injured." He flipped his infra and chameleon shields back into place and stood. His HUD indicated that the next room was vacant. "Let's go. Mac, me, Rock."

MacIlargie opened the inner door and zipped through. Kerr and Claypoole followed just as fast—they wanted to get away from the door in a hurry in case their sensors were wrong about nobody being in the adjoining room.

The three Marines trotted along the narrow passage between a rank of desks and a bank of data stores to a doorway on the far side of the room. The HUD floor plan showed a broad corridor beyond the room. The sensors also showed a number of people, mostly singles but some in pairs or trios, walking in both directions along it.

Kerr checked the door. The locking mechanism was disengaged, that much was good. The rest of it wasn't.

Impatiently, he watched red dots moving along the corridor on his HUD. It quickly became obvious the Marines would have a long wait for the corridor to become vacant; there might not even be a moment when nobody was walking in the direction of this door. They had to take the chance that nobody would notice when the door opened and no one came out. Keeping an eye on the moving dots on the HUD, he gave instructions.

The door opened to the left. At a moment when nobody was coming toward it from the right, he opened it and MacIlargie rushed past him into the corridor.

"What's that?" Kerr asked in a voice that could be clearly heard by nearby people.

"You've got to finish this before you go," Claypoole replied just as loudly. He ducked past Kerr into the corridor.

"But—oh, all right," Kerr grumbled, then stepped away from the door and let it close. He glanced left along the corridor. Nobody seemed to notice anything. They headed deeper into the building, closer to their objective.

A man effectively invisible can move without, in most places, being noticed, as long as he moves quietly. But in a corridor with even moderate tr...

Copyright © 2001 by David Sherman

Copyright © 2001 by Dan Cragg


There are currently no reviews for this novel. Be the first to submit one! You must be logged in to submit a review in the BookTrackr section above.


No alternate cover images currently exist for this novel.