WiP: Sneak peek at the novelised version of Shadows of the Quantinex

First chapter of the epic, globe-spanning post-apocalyptic story that reveals the truth behind Yellow Dawn

What caused the apocalypse to happen? What brought about the event known as Yellow Dawn?  This story reveals the people, events and monstrous gods that brought about the near total destruction of humanity on Earth.

Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur was originally launched as a role-playing game in 2008.  Shadows of the Quantinex is the companion campaign book that allows investigative characters to explore the truth about what caused the shocking events to occur, gives them a chance to reap vengeance (at a cost) and to attempt to prevent another hammer blow against humanity.

I was on Hvar Island, Croatia, last week. Trying my best to relax after 5 months working on the 3rd edition of Yellow Dawn. A total re-write as part of a deal I have on the table with publishers Modiphius (Achtung! Cthulhu) to adapt YD to work with Chaosium’s 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu.  I decided to spend my mornings walking along the shoreline to the town of Hvar and climbing up the near vertical streets to the mountainous path that leads to a medieval fortress overlooking the town.  That’s where I penned the first chapter, what you have here, bringing back a character some fans will recognise – James Spaulding – to take on the lead role in the story.

This is a very rough draft, literally straight off a notepad text file hence the odd formatting.  I hope you enjoy.

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Shadows of the Quantinex

CHAPTER ONE {draft}

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God had a funny way of showing his gratitude, James Spaulding thought as he began to process the fact he was about to die.  Not just him but his whole squad.  And die horribly.
It wouldn’t be there first time for him.  There would be no recovery this time.  No flash-pup into a cerebral codex implant.  Being here, where he was, his mind state would be fucked beyond comprehension. Any recording would be destroyed as a matter of protocol.  Biosecurity, or whatever it was called when insanity could spread just through contact with an Infected idea.
After everything he had been through, it was going to all end here.
The once leafy suburb of Crouch End, in what was left of London.
It had been a big push as part of a reap & rescue mission.  A personal trauma alarm had been triggered and this was armpit of Hell the fee-paying bigshot had decided to get injured.  Dragging Spaulding and his whole team in through the grinder just so Armwatch could honour their contract and haul the idiot out ready for medivac.
Arse shit morons.
Normally, every trauma response contract specifically states Dead Zones as outside the terms but this idiot had paid a premium, something extraordinary, to ensure he was covered in event of an emergency.  Whichever corporate exec had signed-off the idea had raked the cash into Armwatch’s P&L and grabbed a bonus, not really thinking of the consequences.
Well guess what boys and girls…?
James imitated a singsong entertainer voice in his mind.
It had gone wrong from the very start.  An Armwatch transporter dropping them out of LEO.  A virtual freefall ride from the edge of space before the transporter kicked into a tactical glide path.  Then a LABLO jump, all five of them jogging from the drop down hatch.   Early morning sunlight and blue skies.  London below them.  A sprawl of Dead Zone stretching off as far as the eye could see.  Blacklight rigs exploding beneath them as they fell at terminal velocity onto target.  And the roll of the dice bringing up bad luck as Jennerson’s rig failed and she slammed into a line of rusting cars, all of them crammed together in a jam that never ended as people had tried to flee the city ten years ago, most of the vehicles crowded with long-decomposed occupants who died whilst they waited. Jennerson added her body to the long line of death but the noise of the impact was the real killer.  It broke the silence. Moments later,  Infected in the area came pouring out into the road like a swarm.
It was the stuff of nightmares. All happening in slow-motion as his boosted reflexes scraped back the reaction time ratio.
The tactical scrubnet was up and all the windows showing views from each of the other three members of the squad began flashing with activity markers, framed within the peripheral vision of his enhanced vision.
Conrad Frazer, Cord to his squad mates, was showing a guncam view, hunkered down behind the wheel arch of a rusting saloon car, half a dozen former members of the human race sprinting towards his position: all of them with that vacant-eyed look of chemical rage twisting their withered features.
Cord still had the presence of mind to initiate an immediate evac request.  The response was immediate and negative.  Their situation was too hot to risk any hardware coming in for them.
Grigori was screaming through the comms channel.  James focussed on Grigori’s feed which showed a grotesque close-up of an unrotting fat face, bluish-grey skin marbled with clogged veins, withered and yet full of demented fury.
Vodice, pronounced Voditz but everyone called her Dice, provided context to Grigori’s situation. Her cybernetics captured and broadcast the scene through the scrubnet: Grigori was in a hand-to-hand tussle with a giant. The Infected grappling with him must have been a wrestler or former bodybuilder in pre-YD days, dressed in blue jeans stained with a decade of gunk and the remains of a T-shirt hanging off his bulky physique. The Infected had a hold of Grigori with one meaty, undead fist, whilst using the fingers of its other hand to yank at his carbo-plastic armour breastplate.  Attemping to get at the flesh beneath.  It was like watching a starving man trying to tear open a scavenged food package.  The armour was securely attached.  Part of the heavy trooper clamshell Grigori was encased within. And one reason why none of them were in any state to try and make a run for it.  Running in clamshell armour was a shortcut to blowing the valves on your heart, even power-flow valves on military implants like theirs.  Or in his case, a heart that was a genetic Frankenstein monster of human and alien tissue like the rest of him.
The darklab programme that had saved his life 15 years ago now dedicated a significant proportion of its budget on testing new strains of Carbon-88 and xenomorphic DNA.  The term “alien” wasn’t quite correct.
In a way, the darklab programme owned him, body and soul.  There were rewards; he was alive, and in the early years he had been able to see his brother and sister following what happened in Cornwall.  But both of them had died with along with seventy percent of the human population when the event known as Yellow Dawn had happened.  The rewards were now harder to quantify.  Harder to justify against the ever increasing risk to his existence and sanity, as the programme used scenarios like this to test and evaluate what they were developing inside him. It was as if they were starting to see him as more disposable than vital to ongoing research.
They had 15 years of samples.  Maybe they had everything they needed?
He closed down the distraction of his thoughts.  The surreal time-lag allowed James to study the fine details of each scenario being presented within the  digital overlays of his field of vision.
He was aware of Dice firing her modified H&K GPMG-9 at the Infected gripping Grigori.  Her smartlink would be punching the 9 millimetre, subsonic, incendiary hollow points where her crosshairs were pointed, but drift was always a risk with rapid firepower.
Chunks of burning flesh started flying off the Infected whilst it continued to hold on.
Gregori was still screaming inside his enclosed helmet, despite the still intact nature of the armour: a throat-stretching, lung emptying bellow of horror.
James decided to worry about that later. He had his own shit to deal with on a immediate basis.  A dozen men and women running towards his position from a narrow side street, shreds of clothing flapping from their emaciated undying bodies, vacant eyes in twisted faces.
Time to go noisy.
He brought up the Haasrin Heavy Automatic Weapon and jammed the stock into his shoulder, against the spongy cartilage armour that was growing out of his bone-nubs. Fingers of his right hand eased into the lower trigger guard. He fired the underslung grenade launcher at the oncoming group.  The chambered grenade was a forty-millimetre white-phosphorous slicer. It slammed into the third from front: a woman with lank black hair.  She vanished in a misty puff of gore. A microsecond later nearly half the other figures tumbled to the ground, large sections of them carved away.  Then the WP ignited and anything that was still running was also burning.  They were getting close.  Behind them, maybe fifty metres away, an incalculable number of Infected began flooding into the narrow side street.
Shit. This was even worse than that he’d thought.  A glance at the digital overlays within his FOV showed Cord had a similar crowd of Infected charging down on his position. Grigori’s situation was leaving a gaping hole their fire pattern, although his massive clamshell figure was finally fighting off what was left of the giant grappling him.  Dice had switched away to focus on several dozen Infected sprinting towards their position, along the road behind them.
James focussed on the burning bodies less than three seconds from overrunning his location. He pulled the underslung trigger again.  Click, tug, boom.   A High Explosive Fragmentation grenade.  Debris and charred gore began to rain down in the aftermath.
James maintained his firing position, began to take slow careful backward steps and switched to main trigger.  The field was target rich.  Boosted reflexes slowed everything down. The smartlink between weapon and eyes showed amber arcs ghosting projected positions of moving targets.
Squeeze trigger. Watch Infected drop, observe those behind it leap or run around what’s just fallen.  Move the weapon, fire some more. Repeat.
A part of his brain was able to register what was happening in the digital overlays. Gregori was repeatedly stabbing the giant Infected in the head with a monoblade projecting from his armoured gauntlet. Sticky, crimson and black matter was spattering Grigori with each violent thrust.  The Infected finally stopped grabbing at him and seemed to be starting to topple backwards.  Grigori tilted at the waist and brought up a heavily armoured leg to kick the giant’s bullet riddled midriff.  The Infected fell down, writhing with a metaphysical tenacity to live on.   Grigori dropped his leg, came upright, stepped back and brought his SMUKA plasma cannon to bear on its gyroscopic harness.  He triggered a short burst a point-blank range into the Infected.  Destroying it. Turning it into a mass of superheated steam and charred bone.
Weird, seeing an ordinary human skeleton beneath the monster visage.
Grigori was still screaming, and muttering strange words.  James had a bad feeling about that.  He pinged quick sub-vocal commands to Dice and Cord on their private channels, instructing them to isolate Grigori from the scrubnet.
The term DOMINO was used.
Within his FOV James could see Cord slowly backing towards him, firing burst after burst from his Heckler &Koch – same modifications as Dice to minimise noise.  Each hit was well-placed and bringing down every other Infected. But the overall numbers were swelling.  At least the Infected weren’t capable of firing back.  They did what they did, which was to run at you with the intention of chewing into your flesh with teeth and spreading whatever military engineered weaponised nastiness was keeping them animated.  These things didn’t eat. Didn’t consume fluids.  As human beings they should have ceased to exist a decade ago but every Dead City, which was just about every town and city that used to exist on the planet, was infested with them.
Folks like to call them zombies. But James knew through talking with people in the programme that that was a big mistake. These things were much worse.
There must have been over a hundred of them converging in his position now.  The majority were still some distance away, looking like an indeterminate mob in the bright sunlight and shadows, but they were moving fast.
Both Dice and Grigori were fully engaged.  Like Cord and himself, both were taking careful and deliberate steps.  The whole squad was laying down a blistering field of fire but they were slowly converging into a back-to-back last stand.  James put the cross hairs from his smartlink over a general mass of Infected and used that as lock for one of the four micro thermonuclear missiles attached to his backpack.  The M-THERM launched out of its tube and streaked up into the air.   James switched to the next target and fired another burst from the Hassrin HAW.
Tactical banter was switching back and forth across the scrubnet.  Grigori had been effectively silenced.  Whatever was happening to him wasn’t yet affecting his ability to function as a soldier, he was swivelling left and right in very short arcs, punching plasma fire into the approaching throngs of Infected.
Something squat and mechanoid crashed down behind James in a detonation of blacklight.  He felt it rather than heard it.  Snapping a quick glance, James saw a tripod legged support drone.  Armwatch had just delivered a little bit of help. Maybe they weren’t entirely fucked after all.
Maybe the programme still considered him a valuable asset worth saving?
The drone looked like a large machine gun on three, powerful, articulated machine legs. It got straight into action, letting off stuttering burst after stuttering burst from its main weapon.  Belt fed high-explosive tipped flechette rounds were propelled at supersonic speeds by the gas compression system in the heavy weapon’s guts. When they hit an Infected it was like watching something made of meat, gristle and bone being torn up like paper, only very, very fast.
The nuke dropped into bed.  Magnesium white flash.  Their optics were spared by reactive enhancements, all of them dialled in to the missile’s flight path via the scrubnet. The heat blast was followed by the concussion wave which carried a storm of debris.  Like the drone, all their electronics were shielded to  this level.  James staggered.  Multiple fragments tore into his cartilage armour.  One piece struck his thigh and got through, making him scream.  Blood flowed briefly down the weird semi-organic armour segment before his enhancements clogged the wound with coagulants and fed his brain analgesics.
“We need to find high ground!” Dice urged, tension racking up the pitch of her voice.
James grimaced, unsure of where.  His brain was aching, audio filters struggling to cope with the rapid supersonic bangs of the drone’s main weapon.  His HAW clicked empty as a red flag flashed up within a digital overlay.  “Reload, reload, reload,” he shouted quickly.
Cord stepped in beside him and covered the gap in the fire pattern as James ejected the empty magazine from his HAW with his spare hand. In fluid like movements, his hand reached down into a leg bandolier, extracted another magazine and slammed it home. With two-hundred and fifty rounds in the cradle, he was rocking again.  His smartlink projected amber vectors.  He fired. Adjusted. Fired.  And repeated.
“Whoooo!” Cord yelled. At least somebody was enjoying the mayhem. James glanced at the young Polish kid and caught him looking at the HAW and his line of fire.  It was a more impressive killing machine than the H&Ks.  Cord’s face was clearly visible beneath a solid curve of transparent reinforced carbo-plastic, the same material they used on the cockpit of deepsea assault subs.  White-skinned, his lips were always unusually red, his mouth often stretched in some bizarre contortion of whatever hyped-up emotion Cord was experiencing at the time. As far as James knew, Cord wasn’t taking any kind of combat drugs, the kid was just wired that way.
James couldn’t help but grin back at him as they made eye-contact.
Cord jabbed a gauntlet covered fist against his chest cartliage and then swung out of sight to resume his fire pattern.
“Barrel malfunction,” the matter of fact message came through from the drone via audio and visual prompts.  James prayed the drone carried a spare. The abrupt absence of its fire was immediately noticeable.  A seemingly endless mass of Infected, maybe several hundred now, began pouring out of every side street along the length of the road he was looking down, and began sprinting towards him and his squad.
He broke off from using the HAW to make three quick lock-ons with his smartlink.  Three M-THERMS errupted from his backpack and his peripheral vision tracked their contrails as they twisted up into the air.
“On me! Follow when the three mini’s go bang. OK?”  James stated. His eyes focussing on an apartment building he could now see poking up several streets to his right. To hell with the Armwatch client. They had to get out of this arse shit.
Affirmatives pinged back from Cord and Dice.
Nothing from Grigori.
“Reloading, reloading, reloading!” Dice yelled.
Timing was a turd sometimes.  James shifted his fire pattern to compensate.  Dice rammed another magazine home and resumed firing again.
Three nukes dropped into bed.
Further away this time, their triple overlapping blast spheres nearly overwhelmed everything they had protecting their feeble organics.  A 250 metre wide path cleared of all structures, and all Infected, now led towards the tall apartment building he’d mentally tagged as their point of exfil.
The remains of three miniature mushroom clouds rolled upwards like cigar smoke rings.
Breaking into a forward jog, his movements irregular because of weight, armour and damage to his thigh, he started a line of chatter that would be broadcast to Command and repeated on cycle.
He could see himself within the scrubnet windows, Cord and Dice following behind him.  Grigori wasn’t coming with them. Either he knew he was in the arse shit or he just didn’t care. He’d reloaded a new master battery and was facing away from them, vaporising the throngs of bodies sprinting towards him.  More Infected were running into view in the distance.
Up ahead, several scrawny figures scrambled into view over blackened and shock twisted structural debris. James fired his last grenade from the underslung.  Another HE Frag.  Click, tug, boom.  Whatever had just stepped into view went down in pieces.
“I’m out, I’m out, I’m out!” Dice shouted.
Darn it, they were all so close.
Cord tried to give her his last magazine.  She slapped his hand away.  “Save it blondie. I’m down to what a girl does best.”
She extracted a short, heavy blade from a sheath and sprinted to come alongside James.
They were all bunching up close now.
Cord’s feed showed him twisting in brief arcs. Infected were starting to fill the gaps behind them.  Cord was holding his fire, saving what they had left for anything that got in the way of their exfil.
Grigori’s feed showed him smack the quick release on his SMUKA plasma cannon’s gyroscopic harness and let it slide off him onto the ground.
James kept moving forward but Cord slowed to turn round. His guncam showed the view.  Grigori was still an imposing sight, a massive bipedal shape in clamshell armour, almost obscured by the massive swarm of Infected running at him.  Grigori held up his massive arms.  And then they were all over him.  Grigori swung one way, then they other. More bodies scrambled onto him.  His feed went blank.
Cord turned back to tilt into a full sprint, needing to catch up and close the gap.
Six Infected dashed into view ahead of him, cutting  him off from James and Dice.
They were a hundred metres from the apartment building. James kept moving forward.
Cord raised the H&K. Nothing happened.  A malfunction alert leapt through the scrubnet.
“Fucking shit!” Cord yelled, he tossed the weapon aside and grabbed two grenades from his webbing.
Dice dropped back and turned, running in with her blade held ready to strike.
The scrubnet went dead.
James eased his pace to look around him.  In the space left by the three M-THERMS he could see dozens of Infected starting to scramble across the crater rims towards their position.  If he kept moving he’d reach the apartment before they did. He twisted at the waist and looked in the opposite direction. This view wasn’t so good.  Several dozen Infected were closing in on him from between a row of badly damaged buildings.
Then something unexpected happened.
A new tactical network came up. This one was unfamiliar.  A logo he didn’t recognise. A moment later, a high energy beam weapon jabbed down from the sky.  It vaporised an Infected mid-stride with surgical precision.  The beam came down again, less than a nanosecond later. Again and again. So quick, so precise, that it was as if dozens of separate beams were coming down together.  But this was an orbital strike. Heavy ordinance. What he was seeing was after-glare.
This wasn’t Armwatch.  This wasn’t the programme.
James kept running. Another getting coming even remotely close to him got a heavy beam melting them into nothing.
“Commander Spaulding.” The voice came through his ears.  The Carbon zipper they’d given him had a biolectric data system grown into every organ, every fibre, but was also capable of digital comms.  It was supposed to be a secure network.  He slowed to a semi-serious jog, turned, saw Cord breaking free of the cluster of Infected.  Four were dead on the ground. Two had Dice between them, the blade was in her hand but her helmet was off and one had a chunk of her neck tearing away within its teeth.
The voice came back through his ears.  “I don’t expect you to respond but I need you to keep moving towards your intended exfil point.”
James slowed to a backstepping walk.  Eyes on Cord, who was freaking out.
Dice slumped to her knees, dropping the blade and clutching at her neck as both Infected stepped away – seemingly satisfied with their work. Did these things have such thoughts?
Dice was staring right at Cord.
Cord was backing away, shaking his head.
The change could take seconds.
Everything seemed to be in slow motion to James.
She gave Cord the simplest of nods.
Cord leapt up onto the balls of his feet. Tossed both grenades and began to turn.
The beam weapon jabbed down and turned Cord into a detonating erruption of melted flesh and armour, what was left was swept away as both grenades went off behind him.  Dice vanished in the dual explosions.
James staggered with the shock of it, had to fight to keep his footing and remain upright and moving.
“I hope that has got your attention Commander.” The voice insisted.  “You need to get to your exfil point. You need to follow my instructions. Transport is inbound. We’re getting you out Commander. You’re about to change employer.”

# # #

It was his purpose in life, ever since being rescued from another near total death experience in Cornwall fifteen years ago.  To have parts of him cloned and re-genomed; all very standard for the Carbon-88 industry producing advanced strains of the human chassis, but in his case, all of his enhancements were modified by sequences of alien material found with him at the end of that horror story.
He was part of a darklab programme, covertly exploring the xenomorphic find of the millennium: a hive of insectoid creatures that had existed on Earth for centuries, perhaps even thousands of years.
Very few knew.  Those that did were a part of the programme.  Nobody had any interest in going public.  Everyone had something to lose.
The event known as Yellow Dawn had highlighted to James the major ignorance Humanity had towards its position in the cosmos.  We were not alone. But at the same time, whatever else was out there was not close at hand, and could not be understood with rational, human, scientific thought.
The arterial wormhole network found by Borgendrill corporation. The evolution of the Changed, victims who survived the 1st pathogen that came in the wake of Yellow Dawn but left mutated at a molecular level: the darklab programme had identified alien sequences within their DNA that was different again to what was being used on James.

.

/// END CHAPTER 1

FOREST good books online from amazon and kindle by best science fiction dark fantasy author David J Rodger

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David J Rodger: Author and creator of the RPG “Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur”. Excellent reviews. Crossover thrillers that blend science fiction and dark fantasy themes, some of which are in a post-apocalyptic setting (Yellow Dawn).

“Atmospheric and Creepy”Alison Flood, The Guardian

“Inventive, dark–and very cool! ”L.R.Ryan, Author

A Universe Twisted into Two: The majority of my novels occupy a similar time period (in the near future). This period is cut short by the apocalyptic event known as Yellow Dawn. Yellow Dawn acts as a dividing line and any book set after Yellow Dawn can be considered post-apocalyptic in nature. They still occupy the same universe, but readers can see it warped through a different lens. Here is a quick list to show you which novels come before and after Yellow Dawn.

Which Book Should You Read First? Any that take your fancy. There are currently no serials. Each book is a separate story.

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