Daniel Arenson: The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)

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Daniel Arenson The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)
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    The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1)
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The Heirs of Earth (Children of Earthrise Book 1): краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Some called them the Skra-Shen, their true name. Others called them the flayers, for they adorned their lairs with the skins of their victims. Some whispered in fear of the bloodclaws or shadow hunters.

To humans, they had just one name. The name of an animal from old Earth, said to resemble these aliens from the depths. A name that filled every man, woman, and child with horror.


The scorpions from Earth were small, David had heard. No larger than his hand. The aliens that charged toward him were the size of horses. Black exoskeletons coated them, harder than the toughest steel. Their pincers gleamed, large enough to slice men in half. Their eyes blazed—red, narrow, flaming with malice. Stingers curled over their heads, dripping venom.

They came from deep in Hierarchy territory, from a planet no human had ever seen. Some claimed the scorpions had emerged from a black hole, while others whispered of beasts from another dimension. They were apex predators. They had conquered countless worlds, yet humans were their favorite prey.

And now they raced toward David and his comrades, screaming for flesh.

David shouted and opened fire.

His railgun roared with fury and flame, and a shell exploded against a scorpion.

An instant later, his comrades fired too, screaming, blasting hypersonic lead against the enemy.

In old legends of Earth, the mythical heroes used gunpowder to fight the monsters from the darkness. Railguns were far deadlier. They used electromagnetic hellfire to launch bullets powerful enough to tear through buildings. One bullet hit the cave wall and plowed a hole through the stone, vanishing in the darkness.

Yet even these mighty weapons barely dented the scorpions' exoskeletons. One bullet sank into a creature's head, but only an inch deep, not even slowing the alien. Another bullet ripped off a claw, yet even that digit kept crawling, snapping, thirsty for blood.

David could barely breathe. His head spun.

We're going to die. We're all going to die here.

The scorpions' stingers rose.

Venom sprayed.

The humans screamed.

A blast of venom hit someone at David's side. The man howled as his face melted. The features dripped off, revealing the bone, until the skull too dissolved. Another venomous spray hit a man behind David, and the warrior bellowed, clawing at his face. The skin came free in his hands. Droplets sizzled against David, burning through his pant leg, through his skin and flesh, eating at his thigh bone like worms through wood.

David screamed and kept firing, launching both bullets and grenades, unable to stop the aliens. A scorpion reached the defenders. A pincer grabbed a man and lifted him high. The claw tightened, slicing the man clean in two. Entrails and blood spilled, and the scorpion tossed the two halves aside, laughing. Another warrior charged forward, face gone but still firing his gun, only for claws to rip off his limbs.

The carnage spread around David—fire, smoke, burning skin, scattered gobbets of flesh. In the old tales, battles were glorious and noble and pure, yet here was a nightmare.

And from the inferno, rose a voice.

A voice David recognized.

A voice gritty, hissing, a voice like flames crawling over sand.

A voice from David's deepest, darkest memories.

"Hello again, old enemy." Metallic eyes blazed through the smoke. "David Emery . . . the coward tries to roar."

Around him, the last defenders of the cave fell. David remained alone. He clenched his jaw, knelt, and grabbed a grenade from a dead man's belt.

David was bleeding, maybe dying. But he had no time for pain.

He hurled the grenade above the hissing, cackling creatures. He aimed not at them—but at the ceiling.

He turned and ran.

Behind him, the explosion rocked the tunnel. Fire washed across David's back. Stones rained. Shock waves pounded him, knocking him down. Sound pulsed across him like waves, the roar of a god, rising louder and louder until something shattered in his ears and the world was ringing sirens and white light.

David lay for a moment, maybe dying, blanketed in stones and heat and pounding sound.

He forced himself up, leaving blood on the stones, and turned to see that the tunnel had collapsed behind him.

For an instant, he dared to hope. Dared to believe that the boulders had buried the scorpions. That perhaps he had redeemed himself, had slain the beasts.

Then the stones shifted. Cackles rose behind them. Dust flew and rocks tumbled. Behind the blockage, the scorpions were still alive.

And they were digging.

David limped deeper into the cave, barely able to run now, his ears ringing, his legs bleeding. He had only moments, he knew, until the scorpions surged again.

I have to get you out.

His blood kept flowing.

I have to save you, my family.

He limped onward, past and present blending. The ghosts of his dead brothers danced before his eyes, and behind him the creatures howled.

He stumbled into the crystal cavern, the home he had built here for his community. When David had found this place two years ago, he had thought it beautiful. Silver and indigo quartz covered the walls. Crystalline stalagmites rose like the towers of a gleaming city. Stalactites shimmered, shining with internal fire. Glowing microbes lived inside the crystals, filling them with blue and lavender light. David still remembered the day he had brought his family here, how his wife's eyes had widened in wonder, how little Jade had laughed with joy.

Across the cave, the colonists were whispering prayers. Some held weapons with shaky hands. Others held their children. A few dozen humans—thin, haggard. Long ago, they had defected. Yes, maybe they were cowards. David had chosen life over courage. Yet had death now found them?

David's family huddled under an overhanging shelf of lavender and indigo quartz. His wife, Sarai, clutched a rifle. Her eyes shone with courage. She was a petite woman, yet strong and fierce when defending her family. Her golden braid hung across her shoulder, showing the first few silver hairs. David still remembered the day they had met, children on a faraway moon, collecting seaweed on an alien shore, food for survivors fleeing from world to world.

Their two daughters stood by Sarai, two lights that lit David's life, that shone so brightly even here in the shadows.

Jade was their eldest, six years old. She looked so much like her mother, her hair golden, her eyes green. And like her mother, she was fearless, her knees and elbows always scraped from running through the caves, climbing narrow tunnels, and diving into deep rivers. Hers was a spirit of adventure. Even now, the girl bared her teeth, and she clutched her crystal sword, her favorite toy. Even at six, Jade was prepared to fight for her family. Perhaps, in another life, she might have grown into a warrior.

But we left the war, David thought. How could I have known the war would follow me here?

Rowan, his youngest daughter, was nothing like her sister and mother. This one took after David. She had his eyes, solemn and dark. Her brown hair was cut short like a boy's. Even at two years old, she was willful and insisted on cutting it short, on looking just like her daddy. Like David, she was thoughtful, reflective, perhaps wise. Rowan loved reading books, coloring, and building with blocks rather than wrestling, leaping, or running like her sister. In another life, perhaps, she could have grown to become an artist, a writer, a thinker.

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