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Under A Winter Sky

Worldburner book 2

Johan M. Dahlgren

Copyright (C) 2021 Johan M. Dahlgren

Layout design and Copyright (C) 2021 by Next Chapter

Published 2021 by Next Chapter

Edited by Fading Street Services

Cover art by CoverMint

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the author's permission.

Table of Contents

You Can't Save The World

The Centre of Her Being

Die Fast

Something Big

What Are We Riding On?

Knock, Knock

Mind If I Join You?

The Prince of Their Little Winter Kingdom

Do We Know Him?

The Tree of Life

Into The Hall of the Mountain King

I Know That Blade

While the World Burns

You Will Come To Regret Saving Him

We Have a Priest Now

Slap Bang in the Middle of Nowhere

The Ship That Was Lost

Make Sure They Write Songs About Me

I'm Afraid I Can't Let You Do That

All Gods Are One

Muspelheim, Here We Come

A Claim of Cultural Appropriation

You're Standing On It

The Army of the Dead

We Are Not On Earth

The Ghost Ship Naglfar

A Fight For All He Believes In

See You In Valhalla

Something To Hold On To

Johan M. Dahlgren Biography

You Can't Save The World

Every morning you wake up a day closer to your own death.

The cops on the ground should have stayed in bed.

They were shot in the back at close range from the looks of it. The Front laid an ambush for them, and they walked right into it. Wankers. Send local talent to do a grown-up's job, and this is what you get.

Ignoring the glassy-eyed stares of the corpses, I step over them and continue down the dimly lit tunnel. The big boys will be here any minute, and I need to be in position by then.

The gear I'm hauling slows me down, but you can never carry too much hardware, as Wagner used to say. Especially on a job like this. With the assault rifle in my hands, the pistol on my hip and the huge Lensfield sniper rifle on my back, I should have all eventualities covered.

Famous last words. It's a good thing I have a knife for contingencies.

I spit on the dusty floor and trudge on.

“You have to go deeper, Perez.”

Aeryn's voice in my ear is a reassuring presence. “Three levels down is the auditorium. According to Winger's source, that's where she is.”

Everyone knows Aeryn Winger's sources are the best.

Yesterday morning, the Terrans agreed to the demands of the Revolutionary Utopian Front. That's as good as a death sentence for all involved. Everyone knows the government doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Not even when threatened with local nuclear holocaust.

This is the third incident featuring weapons of mass destruction in the last couple of months, and every time, the authorities have dealt with the situation in their own heavy-handed way. Terran special ops are competent but famously trigger-happy. They love to go in shooting, and more often than not, they get people killed. Including the hostage.

“Got it,” I subvocalise. The bone induction microphone hurt like a bitch to instal, but Winger insisted. In hindsight, I've got to admit it was an excellent idea. This way I can communicate with Aeryn with no one able to eavesdrop. Knowing a hi-tech lowlife like Winger is not a disadvantage. Not that anyone's around to listen to our conversation, anyway. This place is quieter than a library on a Saturday night. I move three levels down into the old Utopian mine without incident.

It wasn't hard to figure out when the black ops team from Earth would strike. A fistful of credits in a traffic controller's pocket got me the time and place an unlisted shuttle docked at the Utopian beanstalk. Another fistful told me the ship had no registered point of origin. A sure sign of black ops. They're here, and they're on their way in. I plan to do my thing while the terrorists are busy fighting the strike team and then slip away unseen in the chaos. It's a simple plan, and that's the way I like it. Simple plans have a sporting chance to play out as intended.

“Someone's coming.”

I freeze. So much for playing out as intended.

A door opens up ahead, and a man backs into the tunnel.


He's thin. Early twenties, maybe. Twitchy. Dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin. He could be anybody anywhere. He carries an ancient hunting rifle that looks like it would explode in his hands if he should ever have to fire it. The extremists here on Utopia have an endless supply of frustrated young men from the miners' ranks. Their supply of firearms, it would seem, is not so endless.

The man grabs the door to steady himself.

“Hey, Ramirez,” he calls to someone back in the room. “Save me some of that cerveza, will you?”

He's had a few already.

“Fuck you, Diaz. I can't promise anything,” comes the reply.

“Doorway on your left.” Aeryn has direct access to the feed from my retinas. That's another tactical neural implant that hurt like hell. It took a while to adapt to, but now I don't even think about that whatever I see, Aeryn sees. Which has resulted in some awkward moments, usually related to bodily functions.

Diaz has still got his back to me, laughing at something Ramirez is doing. I slip into the recessed doorway and keep my fingers crossed Diaz won't come my way. Carefully, I release the Aitchenkai to let it dangle on its strap and pull my knife. I open the short, hyper-sharp blade and the familiar buzz as the knife grinds a few atoms off the monomolecular edge sends shivers of anticipation up my arm.

“Mission parameters specify no unnecessary death. Play with yourself later if you need to reduce your adrenaline levels.”

“I won't kill him unless I have to. And I'll play with myself whenever I damn well please.”

“Don't make me

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