HAWK is “Flash Gordon meets Star-Lord meets Justified!”He’s a galactic law enforcement agent–but he’s been awakened too soon, with no memories, into a galaxy shattered by apocalyptic warfare!Big, bold, colorful space opera from the author of the Sentinels superhero novels and the Shattering space opera series.In paperback, on Kindle, and on Audible audiobook, performed by Sean Duregger!
Hawk awoke naked and screaming in the heart of a shattered galaxy.
He sat up. Instantly a wave of sensations flooded his mind, threatening to drown him—to sweep him away into gibbering insanity.
As he rocked back and forth, moaning, he brought his hands to his head. Something dangled from his arms, he saw: tubes, thin and fluid-filled, attached by needles to his flesh, his veins. Eyes focusing slowly, he grasped them and ripped them out.
He wasn’t screaming any longer. In the few seconds since he’d awoken, he’d begun to sort through the layers of sensory overload and separate the various kinds of input he was receiving—light, sound, touch, taste, smell. The last two were strongest at the moment; a smell of smoke, thin but growing, in the air, and the taste of blood and metal in his mouth.
Warning, his instincts screamed at him silently. Be prepared to move!
The next sensation to penetrate his mind came via touch: the feeling of something cold beneath him. He realized he was sitting on the edge of a metal table of some kind. And that he was naked.
The world spun around him as he tried to look out at his surroundings. A sense of nausea crept up from the depths of his stomach, causing him to grip the cold table’s edge tightly with both hands.
Where was he? For that matter, who was he?
As his consciousness slowly emerged from the long dark in which it had lain, submerged, for so long, he found far more questions than answers waiting for him.
On top of everything now, though, was one single overriding sensation—the skin-prickling feeling of danger. Danger all around; danger everywhere. Even the sounds in the room—
Sounds. Yes. His hearing came back, filling his head with deafening sounds. What is that noise? Alarms, he knew then. Yes. Followed by, No more delays—move!
He pulled himself off the table’s edge and his bare feet smacked the floor. Unsteady at first, he wobbled, bracing himself by gripping the tabletop again. With his free hand, he rubbed at his sticky, itchy eyes.
His vision cleared then, and he immediately wished it hadn’t.
The room was filled with the mind-jarring swirl of flashing and pulsing lights; lights of every color imaginable. They washed the room in their painful glare.
Shading his eyes and squinting against the visual assault, he could just make out his surroundings. He stood at the center of a small, round room, surrounded by consoles and computers and medical equipment that would have seemed quite disturbing, if he’d had his wits about him.
Flashing lights, wailing alarms. Clearly something was terribly wrong here—wherever here was. But what was it that was wrong? Was it him?
Possibly, he understood.
Time to move.
His hands moved involuntarily to his chest and he pulled at the wires and tubes attached to him there. Then he looked around for something to wear, but found nothing that would serve.
Shrugging, he padded cautiously out of the room, into a broad corridor that was also washed in red glare. At the far end, a sliding door stood half-ajar. He ran for it.
Halfway down the hall, a new sensation came fully to his mind. It had been there all along, of course, but he hadn’t quite been able to process it. Now, its intensity ratcheting upward exponentially, it moved itself firmly to the forefront of his consciousness and made itself known beyond any doubt.
It was pain. Searing, blinding pain.
It sliced into his brain like a flaming brand and drove him to his knees. He clutched his head between his hands as he fell, wailing, his voice lost in the cacophony of alarms.
Within the pain, though, something was forming amid his jumbled thoughts; a tiny bit of rationality and order in the sea of agony and discord. As the pain at last receded, that which it had left behind emerged in its wake.
Yes. A memory.
The pain had nearly vanished now and he found that he could focus. He turned his attention to this new thought that had risen into his awareness.
Part of the memory was a name, the other part a visual image.
The name rang clear and true in his head: Hawk. He allowed himself to taste it; to roll it around in his mouth along with the blood and the metal and say it softly aloud. Yes. It felt right. It was true. His name indeed was Hawk.
The image clarified into the outline of a vehicle—a spacecraft. He knew then with absolute certainty that a spacecraft was docked somewhere in the facility, waiting for him. Where?
He thought about that quickly, and it came to him that he possessed that knowledge, too—that he knew where to find it.
But why should he wish to? Was he supposed to go somewhere? Or—was this place simply too dangerous now? Had it been compromised by…by his enemies, whoever they might be?
The details, he decided, didn’t matter at the moment. All he truly knew—knew without a doubt—was that he had to get out. For a number of reasons, none of them terribly clear to him at the moment, he knew had to get away from this place and get away now.
What he had until then taken for his own shaking, he now understood to be the floor itself vibrating violently. He ran.
As he sprinted through darkened, vacant corridors, Hawk allowed himself to wonder what kind of ship it would be, and how he would be able to fly it. For some reason, this thought didn’t bother him. He felt certain he would know how, when the time came.
The other questions—the much larger questions—lurked just out of reach, awaiting his full attention. They were the same ones he’d first considered when he’d awoken: Who was he? Where was he? What was going on?
Some mostly-submerged memory told him he had no time to spend dwelling on such impractical points; at least, not yet. Get clear, get away from this—from wherever this was, and from whatever was happening—and then worry about the big picture.
The floor under his feet vibrated again, shaking more violently than before. The walls, most of them seemingly carved from stone, were actually beginning to crack. The bundles of thick wires and cables and tubes that were bracketed to them at chest-height bounced up and down with enough force to rip some of them free and leave them dangling and swaying. Sparks sprayed out intermittently from junction boxes as he passed them.
On he ran, not encountering any other living beings along the way. By this time he felt as if he’d run more than a mile through the darkened maze, and all with no conscious understanding of where he was going. He trusted his instincts the entire way.
Instincts, as it turned out, would not be enough.
Rounding a corner, he ran nearly headlong into two figures—big, hideous, nightmarish figures—that had been coming the other way. As he brought himself to an abrupt halt and the two creatures did likewise, his eyes flashed across them, instantly registering the details of their appearance.
They were insectoid, tall and slender, with jet-black chitinous exoskeletons. Their heads, long and narrow and triangular in shape, shone with a scattering of blood-red eyes across the middle portion that seemed to glow. As they moved on their two sets of back legs, their bodies appeared to flow like a liquid, rearing up to a height of more than eight feet. Each of them raised its two front appendages in menacing fashion. One “arm” was rounded off at the tip into a sort of cylinder with an open end, and Hawk instinctively understood this to be a weapon. The other “arm” ended with a curved segment that angled to a sharp point; obviously a vicious slashing and cutting weapon that needed no further interpretation.
These were the enemy. As deadly and dangerous an enemy as could be imagined. This too Hawk knew not consciously but viscerally, as a gazelle knows a lion.
But Hawk was no gazelle. He didn’t run. Instead, he lashed out.
Moving with blinding speed and catlike agility, Hawk dropped into a crouch even as one of the figures was just beginning to raise its cylinder arm. Sweeping out with his feet, he took the legs out from under that one, then sprung upward and brought his fists into the midsection of the other.
A sharp pain bit into his left shoulder.
Leaping backwards, he saw that the first invader had managed to stab him with the tip of its dagger-like arm segment. Now it charged towards him, rising up to an even greater height, its deadly arm plunging forward.
Hawk ducked and lunged, the slashing appendage missing him by less than an inch as it plunged down. He grasped that rock-hard arm just above the bladed portion and twisted hard.
The creature emitted an awful cry and scuttled sideways, just as Hawk’s foot came up in a powerful kick. The triangular head snapped back and the creature dropped, stunned.
Still holding the dagger-arm just above the bladed portion, he spun about and drove the incredibly sharp tip into the chest of the other invader as it sought to rise.
Two savage chops with the flat of his hands and Hawk had sent both of the insectoids to the floor, severely injured if not dying. He found he somehow knew exactly where to hit them.
Hawk stepped back from them, not feeling the pain from his shoulder and only absently wiping at the blood running down his side. His heartbeat remained steady; he hadn’t so much as worked up a sweat.
Standing over the hideous creatures, he gazed down at them impassively, studying their long, sharp mandibles and glowing red eyes. He frowned. Somewhere deep within the mists that obscured his memories, a warning was sounding—had been sounding since he’d first seen them. Yes, he definitely knew these creatures, and he instinctively knew how to fight them.
And he hated them.
Why? Who were they?
A sudden fear sweeping through him, he brought his hands to his face. He moved them rapidly over the surface—inadvertently leaving streaks of blood across it—feeling the features, reassuring himself that he looked nothing like this grotesque creature. No—he was…human? That sounded right. Human.
Forcing his eyes away from the invaders and looking around, Hawk saw that he stood at an intersection of four wide corridors. The lights still pulsed and flashed in no discernible rhythm, creating a bizarre, funhouse atmosphere. He knew that he had to keep moving, but he found that for the first time he was unsure of which way to go.
Before he could decide, the clatter of approaching feet echoed toward him.
“There he is!”
Hawk looked up to see a trio of white-lab-coated medical/scientist types rushing towards him. They were humans like him, he noticed—even as he wondered why this would be an issue. Older, they were, and short in comparison to Hawk. Two were female. They halted in their tracks and gawked at him, startled by the streaks of blood across his face and down his chest. Then they looked down at his two insectoid victims.
Hawk remembered again that he was naked, but the three scientists seemed unconcerned about that fact. They looked back up at him.
“You did this?” the male scientist asked, his pale eyes shifting restlessly. He rubbed at his bald head and his thick mustache.
Hawk nodded. He was tense, his every sense heightened, his breathing low and smooth.
“Good. Your programming progressed that far, at least.”
“I told you a Hawk was the best choice, regardless of the…other issues,” one of the female scientists stated, her expression smug.
“It’s not as if we had many other choices available in the genetic vault,” the bald man snapped at her. “A Cardinal would scarcely have been of any real use now.”
“He’s been injured,” the other female pointed out needlessly. Her dark features were pinched into a frown and her white hair was tied up in a bun.
“Escort us to the escape pods,” the first female said, pointing with a fair-skinned if wrinkled hand, “and then we can tend to your wounds.”
“And upload the rest of your data when we reach the other base,” the dark-skinned female added.
None of this made any sense to Hawk. “What are those things?” he demanded, pointing at the insectoids he had fought.
“Skrazzi. Servants of the Adversary, of course,” the male scientist replied, frowning. “They have returned—they are attacking our base.” Meanwhile the two women exchanged worried glances, the meaning obvious: He doesn’t know.
“We must get you to the other base,” the man went on. “The attack disrupted your awakening process. There are probably numerous gaps in your—”
The floor shook violently, causing all three scientists to stumble against the nearest wall. A low rumbling sound echoed all around.
Hawk easily balanced himself on the balls of his feet and rode the quake out.
“They’ve blasted into the reactor system,” the fair-skinned female growled, her green eyes darting back and forth.
“More of them are coming,” the male scientist declared, studying the screen of a tiny device he clutched in one trembling hand. “We have to go. Now!”
“To the life pods,” the dark-skinned female cried, pointing down one corridor.
“No,” Hawk found himself replying sharply. Then, before any of the three scientists could act, Hawk shoved his way past them and dashed down a different corridor, his bare feet slapping the smooth stone floor.
“Wait!” cried one of them—the man. “You are not ready! You have not yet been prepared for—”
The voice faded away and vanished into the distance, amidst the din of alarms and explosions. Hawk was not interested in the little scientist people or in what they had to say. One look at them and he’d known they were enemies to him—enemies almost as insidious as the black-clad raiders he’d dispatched. Besides, he now knew exactly where he needed to go, and it was not with them or to their “escape pods,” which promised no escape, only death in the void.
Why he needed to go there, he wasn’t sure. But the thought had come to him in a flash of insight, and he knew it was right.
Passing another broad intersection and continuing on a short distance, he reached the end of the corridor at last. There he confronted a dull gray metal door. A set of what looked to be controls for it were set into the wall to the right. No sooner had he begun to study them, however, than the sound of agonized screams echoed towards him down the long corridors. Screams that very abruptly stopped.
The scientists, he thought. I don’t believe they made it to their precious pods.
And now he could also hear the clattering of many hard feet on the smooth metal floor, coming from the cross-cutting corridor behind him.
He whirled and looked about. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide.
Quickly he returned his attention to the door mechanism. Rows of colorful buttons and lights. He frowned; no instant solution was leaping from his fog-enshrouded brain this time.
The sounds of feet clattering on the hard floor were growing closer—much closer.
He leaned back into the wall as far as he could, out of direct line of sight of the approaching enemy, making himself as flat as possible.
Two black insectoid invaders scuttled past, their weapon-arms gleaming in the strobing light.
He inhaled and exhaled slowly.
Two more hurried past and continued on.
He waited, and now sweat began to trail down the side of his face. This base—whatever it was—had indeed been overrun. He had to get out, and get out now.
Yet another pair of invaders entered the intersection. They slowed, their triangular black heads moving slowly as their glowing red eyes probed here and there.
Hawk held his breath. He knew somehow that while he was capable of fighting and beating these creatures, they were at least as capable of killing him. There was no doubting that he had been very fortunate in the previous encounter, sustaining only one real injury—an injury that had only now begun to seriously trouble him. His shoulder was throbbing; blood continued to run from the wound. What he could do about it he wasn’t sure, but leaping into combat again was probably not the best way to address it.
One of the invaders had moved on but the other still stood in the intersection, not moving. Then slowly it turned, its red eyes flashing, to stare directly at him.
Hawk sprang out, using the wall to propel himself forcefully. He drove the creature hard into the opposite wall and struck down with an open-handed blow at the cylinder arm, understanding that it represented perhaps an even greater danger than the dagger-arm. Then he gripped the enemy’s triangular head and twisted hard. The creature collapsed to the deck.
Hawk’s victory celebration was short lived. Three of the others that had passed his hiding place by were now hurrying back, their cylinder-arms coming up to level at him.
He didn’t wait for them to strike first. Leaping forward, blood splattering from his shoulder as he moved, he seized the first invader by the upper portion of the dagger-arm and pulled it toward him, then twisted it about. In the process, Hawk bent and cracked the arm at the elbow. A muffled cry rewarded his efforts.
One of the three invaders was rushing ahead, its cylinder-arm pointed at him. Hawk twisted his captive’s body around and used it as a shield, uncertain as he did so of precisely what he was blocking.
Unable to see around the creature he was holding, he could only hear the tack-tack of the attacker’s feet on the hard floor, accompanied by a low buzzing sound. This was followed immediately by a cloud of black particles filling the air; Hawk quickly realized this represented the carapace of his captive as it was being shredded, perhaps at the molecular level.
The answer came to him quickly. Disintegrators. The creatures’ cylinder-arms were organic disintegrator guns. As crazy as it sounded, it was the only answer that made sense.
Ragged gasping sounds were coming from the invader he held. Black blood splattered across the floor, followed by the creature’s limbs as they separated from the rest of it. Holding his breath to avoid inhaling the particles, he grasped the main bulk of the quickly-dissolving body in both hands and hurled it into its approaching comrade, sending both of them crashing to the deck.
The other two invaders had hung back, observing what was happening. Perhaps sensing that this human represented a greater danger than they had expected, they approached very slowly. Hawk could see them further down the corridor, even as the one he’d knocked down sought to extricate itself from what remained of the bleeding carcass of its comrade.
Hawk spared a second for a quick glance down at his own body—a body not at all familiar to him. He realized once again that he was still naked. Naked, and facing six—now five—deadly attackers.
As he looked down he spotted one of the severed arms of his “living shield”—the dagger-arm—where it lay near his right foot. He dove for it, snatched it up, rolled, and was flinging it even as he came up from the floor.
The bloody black bone-blade struck one of the attackers square in the center of the chest and drove it back, staggering and falling. Its partner spared it a brief, seemingly startled glance, then rushed forward with an inhuman cry, brandishing its own weapon-arms.
The attack was wild. Clearly, this one had been driven into a rage by what it had witnessed. It came at Hawk at a dead run, not even bothering with its ranged weapon, simply going with a straight-ahead bull rush.
Faster than the eye could see, Hawk side-stepped, twisted, reached out with powerful hands, and grasped the triangular head. Leveraging his weight and momentum, Hawk snapped the head cleanly away. The body continued on in a straight line until it impacted the wall, at which point it collapsed in a twitching heap, oozing dark ichor.
The blazing-red clusters of eyes dimmed as Hawk gazed down at the severed head. Disgusted, he tossed the thing away and wiped his hands on his bare sides, his victims’ blood mingling with his own.
He spared no time in celebration. He knew that more of the invaders might well be on their way, and in fact might be waiting for him at the door he’d wanted to open. He sprung forward, panther-like, racing back in the direction he had come from—the direction of the door he’d felt compelled to open.
To his surprise, only the dead bodies of the invaders he’d killed greeted him.
He spun about, keen eyes searching. He moved to the intersection and carefully leaned out, checking in every direction.
Could that be all of them? Had they brought so few? Or had he so frightened the strange attackers that they had fled back from whence they’d come?
These scenarios struck him as unlikely.
A moment later, he had his answer. The sound of an entire battalion of invaders—invaders racing at a dead run down the cross-cutting corridor—came to him.
They knew about him. They knew exactly where he was. One of his victims must have managed to send a signal to its comrades.
His head was spinning now, his feet growing unsteady. He understood that his blood loss, combined with his exertions, had pushed him nearly to his physical limit.
He had no time to contemplate such things. He had to get out—now.
Returning his attention to the door lock mechanism, he frowned down at it, his fingers brushing lightly across its surface. It was a small box set into the wall just to the right of the gray door. It had no buttons or switches of any kind visible. How did it work?
His every instinct, and perhaps some portion of his lost memories, told him with great urgency that what he needed lay on the other side of that door.
But—how to open it?
The sounds were much louder now. He knew a veritable army was coming, and that there was no way he could defeat so many creatures—particularly in such a weakened state, and in such a confined space, and with no weapons of his own. No clothes, even!
He wanted to punch the door control box. He wanted to scream at it. Finally, in utter frustration, he shouted, “Open!”
He touched it with his right hand and shouted again, “Open!”
The creatures were nearly upon him.
Did the door know who he was? Did it only allow certain individuals to pass?
Keeping physical contact with the box, he shouted his name: “Hawk!”
The device knew him, though he did not know himself. From somewhere deep inside the mechanism, a click sounded, followed immediately by a deep, resounding clang that came from within the wall. As he stared at it, not quite believing what he was seeing, the door began to slide open.
Hawk wasted no more time. Within half a second he had leapt through the now-open portal and was rushing forward again.
He covered about fifteen yards of dark corridor in only a few quick strides. Long, narrow, bright lights flared to life around him in rings as he ran. From the sounds, he could tell the pursuing invaders had reached the door as well, and it was still open.
The buzz of the strange weapons came to his ears again. He felt slashes of pain along his right leg and down his left side.
He stifled a cry of pain. They were literally disintegrating him!
At the far end of the now-brightly lit corridor, a smaller hatch stood open.
Having no real idea what lay beyond, Hawk dived through it. He rolled on the hard surface and came up ready, hands out and prepared to strike.
“Registering external threat,” came a voice from all around him. “Securing main hatch.”
The round door snapped closed with a clang. Lights came on, bright at first but then dimming to a tolerable level.
Shielding his eyes, Hawk stumbled forward, his body wracked with intense pain. He looked up, searching for the source of the voice he’d heard. There was no one else there.
He slumped against a curved metal wall, nausea rushing over him. Looking down, he saw what looked like broad gouges in his flesh, and realized that blood was rapidly pooling on the dark gray floor, all around his feet. There was no real pain yet, but he knew it was coming and coming soon, if he was still conscious to feel it by then—or still alive.
The voice again. It sounded male, but was silky smooth. Hawk gazed all around, frowning.
“Detecting hostile parties outside main hatch. Shall we launch?”
He had been right—the pain was coming now, and coming hard.
“Who are you?” he called out, his vision swimming.
The voice grew less harsh; it was almost feminine when it came back with, “You have sustained severe trauma, Hawk. Please enter the medical unit immediately.”
“Who are you?” he demanded again, his voice angry though weak. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Calculating probability of early disconnection from datadump system. Subject is missing vital knowledge. Executing emergency override. Launching now.”
The room lurched, causing Hawk to stumble again, now away from the wall he’d leaned upon and toward a coffin-shaped box set into the wall—the hull?—just a few feet away. Its broad gray lid was up, open. He collided with it, held on as the room jerked again. He looked inside. For all of its morbid shape, the inside appeared quite comfortable, with thick white cushioned lining. Tubes and wires coiled in the gaps between the cushions, along with rows of lights, all currently dim.
“Please climb into the medical unit, Hawk.”
He did want to lie down, he decided. Very much, he wanted to lie down. But—in a coffin?
The room—the ship?—rocked violently and he fell forward, into the box. The lid slammed down instantly, sealing him inside.
Gas filled the space. Needles jabbed him all around.
The universe went away for a time.
Van Allen Plexico is the only three-time winner of Best Novel of the Year from the Pulp Factory Awards in Chicago. He’s best known for the ten-volume Sentinels illustrated superhero novel series, the Shattering military SF/space opera series, and Cold Lightning comics. He also hosts podcasts on many SF & pop culture topics including The Mandalorian, Babylon 5 and James Bond. Find more info and links to everything he does at http://www.plexico.net.