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Dragon: The Tower Of Tamerlane

Dragon: The Tower Of Tamerlane, June 2015
Dragon #3
by James Austin McCormick

Class Act Books
Featuring: Titanya; Brok; Sillow
92 pages
ISBN: 0152036199
EAN: 2940152036190
Kindle: B011MNZQ52
e-Book
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"Cooperation can save the day"

Fresh Fiction Review

Dragon: The Tower Of Tamerlane
James Austin McCormick

Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted September 10, 2015

Science Fiction Space Opera

This sparky, action-filled science fiction novella brightened up my day just by reading it. In a previous instalment in the light space opera series by James McCormick, I learned that Dragon is the name of an advanced spacecraft and it's smart, not too wise or brave, and the pilot is a lad called Sillow. Now in DRAGON: THE TOWER OF TAMERLANE, the plot thickens and the zombie droids rampage.

Sillow agrees to act as a spy after his burly friend Brok gets married and retires from the active smuggler life. By this time Sillow has built-in nanobot connections to his Dragon ship's operating computer. This is an age of technical marvels, which include a shrivelled megalomaniac turning himself into a computer virus presence in order to infiltrate a computer in a privatised convict holding facility run by a different, beefy megalomaniac. Well, when the galaxy is within your reach, why not grasp it? Sillow agrees to slip in and discover what is going on. He's soon sorry.

This merry romp involves plenty of running, fighting and swordplay, as well as tech work and zombies. We meet a fine Amazonian lady called Titanya who gives Sillow the necessary powerful arm, while other characters are strong individuals and memorable, especially the villains. Readers just looking for light relief will enjoy this tale on its own but I suggest that it would help to have read the earlier books in the Dragon series, if only so that we feel invested in Brok's marriage. Those who enjoy horror will like certain scenes more than I did but that didn't stop me from enjoying the whole. DRAGON: THE TOWER OF TAMERLANE reminds us that even when everyone is out to get you, cooperation can save the day.

Learn more about Dragon: The Tower Of Tamerlane

SUMMARY

After the death of the Tuolon Ambassador Lagua and the failure to bring the non-humanoid worlds into the Alliance, Sillow and Brok’s long partnership is finally at an end. Now a reluctant solo agent, Sillow is called upon to undertake his first mission, investigate the Tower, a high- tech prison complex along with the oligarch who runs it, a mysterious nobleman who calls himself Tamerlane.

Seeking evidence to prove Tamerlane is responsible for a series of terrorist attacks, Sillow quickly uncovers the sheer scale of his plans, a lethal military strike on all four humanoid home worlds.

Caught and imprisoned however, the Sylvan finds himself helpless to warn the Alliance of the coming danger. All the while, something has been evolving, growing stronger inside the Tower, something intangible yet far more dangerous than Tamerlane ever could be, a being implacably opposed to all life in the galaxy.

And only Sillow has any chance of stopping it.

Excerpt

“Take a good look Drake,” the guard said as the craft closed on the gigantic, ornate structure resting between frozen mountains. “This is the end of the line for you. I hear Tamerlane wanted you personally.” The man grinned, splitting his ugly face in half. “Which ain’t good for your scrawny ass, believe me.”

The prisoner remained indifferent to the mocking tones or indeed the attempt to scare him, but then Darius Drake was a most unusual figure. Small and malformed, his owlish eyes nevertheless exuded an absolute, unshakable confidence, a haughty detachment that often unnerved those around him. The guard was one of them. It was partly for this reason he felt compelled to say something to the perfectly silent prisoner who’d got so deep under his skin.

Drake regarded the structure below. The closer they came, the more like some bizarre, oriental tower it appeared. After some moments he turned his watery gaze back to the guard. There was no aggression, no challenge, just a cool contempt.

The smirk crumbled from the other man’s lips. “You be taking those psycho eyes off me freak,” he warned, lifting his rifle.

Drake blinked impassively back, his wrinkled, wizened features unreadable.

Those damn eyes, the man thought. He couldn’t stand them anymore. He moved forward, stopping the rifle butt just an inch or so in front of Drake’s face.

The little man didn’t flinch.

The guard’s knuckles whitened around the weapon and for a moment he looked as if he might use it. Then he sneered. “You ain’t worth it. Little cripple like you.” He shook his head, sitting back down. He made a point of avoiding the prisoner’s eyes.

A derisive snort made him whirl round, a large blue vein bulging in his neck. The guard stared at a powerfully built, buxom woman with long auburn curls that fell to her shoulders. She was a striking sight, and as he was aware, she’d caught him more than once ogling her during their half day’s journey to Tamerlane’s prison complex. One of her shoulders and arm was completely cybernetic yet the metal was so smooth, so perfectly formed it seemed almost like a bodily adornment rather than an artificial appendage. A thin silver line ran across one of her cheeks whilst above it the eye glowed with an artificial soft ruby light. That eye was mocking him.

“You got a problem?” he snarled.

The woman sneered. “Real tough guy aren’t you Kerry? Bet all the ladies are real impressed by you.”

The guard’s nostrils flared. “Shut your bitch mouth.” Narrowed eyes swept over her. “Look at you, Titanya, the Pirate Queen. Least that’s what they call you, ain’t it?” He slid along his bench, moving towards to her. “Well you don’t look so noble to me. More like a slattern.” He placed a gloved hand to her throat. “Don’t look so damn tough neither.” The woman licked her full lips. “Tell you what lover boy. Take these restraints off and let’s see.”

The guard pressed his face closer to hers. “Let’s not, I like you just the way you are.” He leaned in as if to kiss her. “Nice and easy, which I guess you are anyway.”

Before he could achieve his amorous objective however Titanya swung out a boot. It connected squarely between his legs. The man let out a soft moan and collapsed to the floor, instinctively curling up in embryonic fashion.

The lights inside the craft suddenly flashed red. A bull- necked pilot poked his head around the doorway. “What the hell you playing at Kerry?” he barked. “Get off the floor and strap yourself in. I’m taking us in for landing.”

The guard gave a groan by way of acknowledgment then after a couple of deep breaths succeeded in rolling himself into a kneeling position. He glared at the woman.

“What’s the matter baby?” she asked. “Foreplay a little rough for you?”

“You’re going to get yours,” he spat. He slowly unfolded himself, getting shakily to his feet.

Titanya smiled sweetly. “Not from you, lover boy.”

“This is as far as I go,” Kerry told the two prisoners as they entered the honey comb chamber. “Crims only past this point.” The whole area was built from translucent plasi-steel and the walls danced with the beautiful yet deadly ice storm raging outside. Swarms of bug like droids flew back and forth, attending to a myriad of functions.

In the distance two figures melted out of the shadows. Kerry thrust a hand into the small of Titanya’s back. “Escort’s arrived. You’ll just love these guys. Tamerlane calls them his ‘daichin,’ that means warrior in Mongolian.”

The figures strode toward them. Broad shouldered and powerfully built with stern oriental faces they appeared indistinguishable from each other. Each wore identical dark leather armor.

Kerry’s nerve broke as they drew near. “I’m out of here,” he said, hooking a thumb toward the exit. With that he turned and beat a hasty retreat. Docking bay doors slammed behind him.

The figures stopped. One of them drew a curved blade and pointed it at each of the prisoners, barking something in a harsh, guttural language. He grabbed the woman by her silver arm and flung her forward. Such was his strength she was barely able to stay on her feet. The second daichin went to do the same to Drake but the little man held up a frail hand. Something stayed the fearsome figure and before he could decide exactly what he was going to do Drake moved forward unmolested. His movements were stiff, almost clockwork in their manner.

They walked for some time, first passing out of the honeycombed area then into a series of chambers that struck Titanya as belonging in some kind of exotic palace. From time to time they came across other daichin, all near perfect replicas of the two now escorting them.

“These guys give me the creeps,” the woman said. “What are they, clones or something?”

“Indeed,” Drake replied, his tone flat and emotionless. “These brutish specimens represent Tamerlane’s idea of a master race. He is misguided.”

“How so?” Titanya asked.

“Biological creatures are imperfect,” the man answered, myopic eyes staring into the distance.

An insect droid buzzed past the Earth woman’s cheek. She waved it away with an irritated hand. “I hear you like machines more than people,” she commented.

Drake blinked. “Machines are pure. They are perfect. Take for example the incredible AI system Tamerlane has created here.” He regarded his shriveled hand. “Flesh is nothing in comparison.”

The woman’s beautiful features creased in a frown. “You’re a real odd ball Drake, you know that?”

The little man’s expression didn’t alter. “I’m not as other men,” he allowed. “Soon I intend to become far much more.” There was a cold, calculated exhilaration in his owl-like eyes as he spoke.

Titanya studied him. “I don’t believe it. You wanted to get caught, didn’t you? You wanted to be brought here?” She shook her head. “Why?”

A heavy palm across her head made her stagger.

“Hey,” she shouted, rubbing the back of her skull.

The daichin waved at a gigantic cog wheel just before them. The wheel was turning, internal gears grinding. The cog rolled aside, revealing a long, brightly lit corridor in front of them.

Drake’s little body trembled, but not from fear.

One of the daichins took hold of Titanya. The other indicated for Drake to proceed ahead with him.

The little figure moved forward in his clockwork fashion, attention entirely on what was before him, indifferent to anything else. He looked far from being the condemned man.

“Darius Drake,” the robed figure greeted the little man as his prisoner was led into the laboratory. Like the daichin, he was oriental in appearance yet in contrast to the other’s bullish physique he wall tall and slender. There was also an aristocratic bearing about him, the long drooping moustache and slim braided knot of beard giving the appearance of a warlord monarch. He smiled, revealing a row of savage teeth filed into points.

He stepped away from a hi-tech casket of flashing lights and moved toward his prisoner. “I’ve long wished to meet the individual who masterminded the attack on the Alliance’s armada and the theft of its Arkonium.” He ran a hand down the braided knot at his chin. “And why would you need the most dangerous substance in known space? To continue your string of terrorist attacks against the human race no doubt.” He sighed. “Such a limited vision Mr. Drake. I however have a far greater one. To achieve it though I will need your precious horde.”

The warlord studied his prisoner with black, piercing eyes. “It wasn’t easy to secure your contract. It took a lot of bribes, a little blackmail and even one or two unfortunate accidents to make it happen. One of them wasn’t even of my doing.”

Drake blinked. “I know. It was mine.”

Tamerlane arched an eyebrow. “Then I should thank you. Without your assistance I could never have gotten you here. Although I suspect you will soon regret doing so.”

Drake shook his head. “I’m exactly where I wish to be.”

The warlord studied his prisoner, a mixture of curiosity and puzzlement on his cruel features. “I wonder what you mean by that.” He was silent for some moments then clapped his hands. Metallic cables unfolded from above and wrapped themselves around Drake, hauling him into the air. “Most curious.” A view screen flashed into life on the far wall. Tamerlane turned to it. “Now, let’s get a look at you. See if those rumors of all those augmentations are true.” He studied the screen. “Impressive, skeletal and lymphatic system, major internal organs, even much of your soft tissue has been replaced. Most sufferers of Progeria die of old age before they reach twenty but you’ve managed to extend your own span by decades.” He regarded the cranial readout. “But this, ah, this is something entirely unique. Your entire higher brain functions are digitally encoded. I’m not sure if you’re cognitive processes are even biological anymore. What an incredible intellect you truly possess.”

He waved a hand at the casket and the tentacles swung Drake towards it, flinging him inside. A metallic cord, the end tipped with a glowing ruby needle, reared up and poised itself just above Drake’s forehead. Tamerlane smiled. “Now it belongs to me.” The cable sprang forward. Drake offered no resistance as it pierced his skull and dove into his electronic brain. His eyes flickered then closed.

A translucent panel closed over the casket and a super- chilled mist filled the interior. Tamerlane studied the information flooding into his super-computer. “Now, let’s see where you’ve hidden my Arkonium.” He stretched out a hand and the daichin hurriedly poured out a goblet of wine, placing it in his master’s grip. The warlord took a large gulp as he watched the data falling like raindrops down the screen. He frowned. Something wasn’t right. Some of the data leaking out of Drake’s mind seemed corrupted somehow, as if hidden programs were flooding into the system. Surely such a thing was impossible. His AI was perfect, impervious to infection. He drained the rest of his goblet, watching the screen anxiously. If something was wrong then all his plans were in jeopardy. The invaluable secrets and specialized knowledge of dozens of super criminals were inside it, as were the meticulous plans concerning his Golden Horde.

He hurled the goblet away, his dark features reddening, not from drink but from anger. Yet just as suddenly the anomaly flickered away. Tamerlane watched for some time before he was satisfied there was no more problem. “Wine,” he barked.

The daichin went to retrieve the goblet.

“The bottle.”

The heavy set man handed him the wine.

Tamerlane drained the vessel, enjoying the warmth it spread though his body. A sense of exhilaration filled him. His destiny was about to begin.

He never noticed the eyes appear on the screen, large, owl like eyes.


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