October 2014 Closeout

Jeeze, not a lot of recent posts here.  I’m kind of behind, but I’m working through Wrath of the Usurper while keeping a teething baby entertained and working a day job, so I guess I’m doing alright.

Thanks everyone who supported The Shattered Empire!  It’s done very well.  If you purchased a copy, please post a review.  If you didn’t, check it out and see if it’s your thing.  Right now it’s on the top 100 for Space Opera on Amazon in Germany and Australia, which is good.  It peaked in the US around the top 70 in Military SF.  If you liked it, please tell your friends.

I’m starting production of The Shattered Empire’s audiobook, which should be available before the end of the year.   Thanks everyone for reading and we’ll now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or whatever it is you might celebrate.  A bit of mythos behind it is interesting… tonight was the night that many ancient people huddled under whatever shelter they could and feared the spirits of the dead.  Now people go out and try to scare themselves and/or scare others and get candy.  It gives one pause.

Anyway, happy Halloween… and remember, if you’re already putting up Christmas decorations you’re way too early *glares with irritation at neighbors*

The Shattered Empire Release Notes

The Shattered Empire
The Shattered Empire

The Shattered Empire comes out this weekend and I thought I’d write a bit about it. The Fallen Race was the second novel I ever completed. I was deployed to Iraq when I wrote it, in about a two week stretch while I was moving from one position to another, with basically no internet access, no job other than to get from one spot to the next, and two weeks of total brownout (which meant I couldn’t fly and convoys weren’t driving). I edited and rewrote sections of that novel, on and off, for five years before I finally grew tired of rejection letters and self-published.

Fast forward to today. It took me considerably longer (two months, more or less) to write and edit The Shattered Empire. I’m a bit busier now, though, with a full time job, a wife, and a new baby. The Shattered Empire is a different book, too, written with a better perspective on the universe and with a better idea of where I wanted this all to go… and most importantly, I knew that I had an audience and people wanted to read what I wrote. That gave me a bit of room to expand and experiment a bit.

A bit of warning, The Shattered Empire has a lot of politics, character interactions, and drama. It also has exploding space ships, assassins, mercenaries, and heroes. So I think it’s a better book for having some depth. It is also a huge book, at over 170,000 words, it’s almost half again as long as The Fallen Race. It’s a long read. There are a lot of characters… though the action remains focused around Baron Lucius Giovanni. I do, however, get to explore some of the side characters who didn’t get enough time in The Fallen Race.

All in all, I am happy with The Shattered Empire. I’ll admit, I don’t think it’s perfect, but given the time constraints and current events in my life, I’m proud of what I accomplished. Give it a read and write a review, let me know what you think.  It’s available here from Amazon.

The Shattered Empire Final Sample

Here’s the final section from The Shattered Empire.  Here’s the first, second, third, and fourth samples if you missed them.

Eldorado, Garris Major System

Colonial Republic

May 3, 2403

Mason and Lauren followed the ornately dressed monk towards the pillars of the monastery. After his initial announcement, he had deflected Mason’s other questions. Lauren found him irritating. She didn’t hold with holy men, not of any stripe. In her mind, any kind of higher power would have gotten itself involved already if it cared. What that meant was that either God didn’t exist or he didn’t care, in Lauren’s book.

What that left holy men, in her regard, was either dupes or charlatans. The obvious intelligence of the monk suggested that he was the latter. They stepped under the awning of the monastery. The large stone pillars that upheld the ornate roof also divided the structure into separate areas. Up close, Lauren could see that there were a number of glass display cases, which had held what looked like scrolls, stone tablets, and other odd artifacts. Had being the operative word, Lauren thought dryly.

Someone had smashed the glass cases and torn bits of ancient parchment, smashed stone tablets, and broken glass littered the floors. Overturned tables marked a swath of destruction. The damage was complete and utterly thorough.

Mason turned to Lan, “I’m so sorry. This is my fault…”

“This is the fault of the men who did it,” Lan said, his voice calm. “I did not show you this to make you feel guilt, I showed you it so that you can see the determination of those who hunt you.”

“What else did they do?” Mason asked. There was a detached tone to his voice, almost as if he were tapping into some part of him that did not involve emotion.

“When I initially refused to divulge your location, they first threatened the collection of items we had here. I refused, so they destroyed them. They then threatened my people. However, I made it clear that not only would we not cooperate, but that I would kill myself rather than capitulate,” Lan said.

Mason winced. Lauren gave the old man a skeptical look. Passive resistance in that form only went so far, in her mind. Granted, the mercenaries needed him alive, but she didn’t see how the man could prove his determination short of acting on it. Lan caught her look and gave her a small smile, he raised his wrists. She saw, with shock, that he had two bandages, one over each of his wrists.

“The mercenaries moved quickly to have a doctor save my life. After that, they did not further threaten my people, they merely made a recording, threatening the monastery, which they said they posted.”

Mason sighed, “I’m sorry, Lan. I’ve been out of contact for the past few months with no way to find their message. Otherwise, I would have come sooner.”

“Then I am disappointed in you,” Lan said, his voice calm. “I had assumed you realized that showing up would further endanger us, so you stayed away. The mercenaries would have left, eventually. Perhaps, then, they would have lived.” Lan turned, “I see that you have returned to violence.” The way he said it, Lauren could tell it wasn’t a question.

Mason looked away. “Some things happened.”

“As I expected,” Lan said. “As happened here, the last time my people were under threat.” The monk sighed. “This, Mason, is why you had to leave before.”

“Because he defends the people he cares about?” Lauren snapped. She was tired of seeing Mason lectured. Yes, he had done terrible things. Yes, he had a core of violence. If he used that in the right way, she didn’t see the issue.

“No, because his path, as always, is a different one,” Lan said. “I would not take a wolf pup, shear it, force it to eat grain, and run with the flock. To do so is to wrong the wolf and threatens the flock.” Lan cocked his head, “I might, instead, raise the wolf pup to protect the flock, feed it meat, and tame it… but again, this would be to wrong the wolf. This is not the path of the wolf.” Lan’s gaze was calm as he met Lauren’s eyes. “The wolf is a predator. He is not a sheep dog. He is not a sheep. He must hunt, must kill, it is in his nature.”

Mason sighed, “So, what, you want me to return to what I was?”

“The wolf who kills for no reason is not along his path either,” Lan said. “The wolf that hunts alone, without a pack, is less than himself.” The old man shrugged. “Truly, I merely wish for you to find the path that is right for you… and in that, I think you will finally find peace.”

Mason turned away. He took a deep breath as he stared down at the ruins of the artifacts. “I’m sorry about what happened here.”

“Do not be,” Lan said. “They are just objects, of little importance.” He smiled slightly, “Besides, we keep the actual ones hidden away, this is just what we show the tourists.” Despite herself, Lauren gave a snort. Perhaps Lan wasn’t so bad after all.

Mason said, “I need to find out where they came from and what they wanted with… Tommy King.”

“They spoke of their employer several times,” Lan said. He pulled a slip of paper from inside his robes. “One of my younger monks followed them and found that this was the contact code they used at the planetary ansible.”

Mason took the slip of paper. “Whatever you feel about this, I know it is my fault.” Lauren hated the tone of defeat in his voice.

“Fault is inconsequential,” Lan answered. “To use terms of blame and fault is to imply causality, to suggest that man is stripped of choice, that we act only in response to others.” He cocked his head, “All men have free will… you have a choice, now, just as these other men did. What you do with it is up to you.”

Lauren shivered at his words. They were outwardly calm, yet there was a sense of warning and knowledge there… as well as resignation. Lan knew what choice Mason would take, yet he warned him anyway. If he really wanted to stop Mason, he wouldn’t have given him the paper, Lauren thought. She watched Mason as he walked away with slumped shoulders.

Almost as if he had read her mind, Lan spoke, “To deny him the information would be to deny him free will, you know.”

Lauren looked sharply at the old monk. “Free will is overrated. I’d rather have a happy, ignorant life. Since I can’t have that, I just want revenge.”

“How can one be happy without freedom?” Lan asked.

Lauren shook her head, “I don’t have time for your riddles, old man.” She looked him in the eyes, “And if you really gave a damn about Mason, you’d have protected him from the only choice he could make. He spent a decade or more burying Tommy King.”

“A wolf could never be happy living as a sheep,” Lan said, his voice sad. “Nor, despite what it tells itself, would it find happiness in denial and isolation.”

All of the parables and similes and his odd behavior just became too much. Lauren wasn’t certain if Lan wanted Mason to return to being the pirate Tommy King or if he didn’t. For that matter, half of what he said sounded almost as if he said Tommy King wasn’t a bad man. She stared at the old monk for a long moment as she searched for the right words. Eventually, she settled on the truth.

She glared at him suspiciously. “You are weird,” Lauren finally said.

***

The Shattered Empire will be available on Amazon on the 25th of October, 2014.  Read below for the blurb.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they wanted. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

The Shattered Empire Fourth Sample

Here’s the fourth sample of The Shattered Empire.  Follow the links to read the first, second, and third samples.

Halcyon, Garris Major System

Contested

May 3, 2403

Garret yawned and stretched as he climbed out of the cockpit. His long, lean frame fit into the cockpit of his Hammer, but only barely. He ran a hand over his shaved scalp and then reached down and offered Heller his hand. As usual, she ignored it and pulled her light body out with one hand. Garret sighed, “You know, I’m just being polite?”

“Ya,” Heller said. “I’m being polite by not breaking your wrist.”

Garret sighed again, “You know, I couldn’t fly with a broken wrist.” Normally a frown on his hard, dark face was reason enough for someone to change their attitude, especially backed by his size.

“This is reason for politeness,” Heller said as she dusted off her flight suit, doffed her helmet, and put her ear-buds in. Her voice grew a bit louder, “It would take me too long to train new pilot, ya?”

“Right,” Garret said. He shook his head as he turned away, but he didn’t even try to hide his smile. Heller was eccentric, to say the least, but she was a great auxiliary officer on his Hammer.

“Commander Penwaithe,” a voice spoke from behind him.

Garret turned and grimaced to find a man in a black uniform. He recognized it as Nova Roman, which meant he was one of Admiral Mannetti’s people, “Yes?” He recognized the tabs on the man’s uniform, he was a commander as well, apparently. Like most of Mannetti’s people, his uniform did away with any form of identification. Either they liked to keep people guessing who they were dealing with or it was some kind of stylistic choice, much like her infamous low-cut uniform.

“Commodore Pierce sent me to speak with you,” the officer said. “Admiral Mannetti is preparing a raid and the locals are going to accompany us for combat experience.” The smirk on his face told Garret just what he thought of that. “We’re cross-loading some of your missiles to the locals, until they’re able to replace some of their stocks.”

Garret grimaced. They’d captured Heinlein Base intact, but like many officers in the Colonial Republic, it’s garrison commander had been corrupt. He’d sold off most of his stockpile of munitions to the black market, which meant that the locals had a paltry reserve to draw upon after the War Dogs had turned over the Colonial Republic ships to them. In theory, Admiral Mannetti could have made up that lack from the ships she’d captured. Of course, she’d moved those to one of her bases ‘for repairs.’

Garret seriously doubted she’d ever turn over any of the ships and he had some dark suspicions about what had happened to the prisoners she promised to ‘repatriate’ to the Centauri Confederation.

Of course, the people of Halcyon Colony didn’t ask many questions, in that regard. Their allies and hired help had come through, and they had liberated the planet. But funding was tight, the Colonial Republic had cut all trade and the Centauri Confederation had already threatened to retaliate for the loss of their ships and the profit of Nova Corp.

So now the locals had turned to privateering… which meant more work for the War Dogs, of course, but it also meant stronger ties to a pirate. A generous man would have assumed that it was just one of those things that happened. Garret being an experienced mercenary figured it was all according to Admiral Mannetti’s plan… and that the long term survival of his former homeworld was in far graver jeopardy than it’s inhabitants realized.

“I assume that Commodore Pierce has already received payment for the transfer?” Garret asked. Wherever his loyalties might, in theory, lie, he was still a mercenary. Payment of goods and services was a necessity, especially for when this entire enterprise fell apart and the people of Halcyon colony were left holding the bag.

“Of course,” the nameless commander answered.

“Great,” Garret smiled. He knew his white, even teeth would stand out starkly on his dark face and seem even more friendly. “I’ll just call Commodore Pierce, then, to confirm and see how many we’ve been paid for already.”

The nameless commander grimaced, “Oh, well, that’s fine. I, uh, meant to say that the President of Halcyon authorized a transfer for payment and I can arrange delivery.”

“Excellent,” Garret said and his smile grew broader. “I’ll wait then, until the payment arrives.”

The commander grimaced, again, “Usually this sort of thing is done on trust.”

“Good, then you can trust me to transfer the munitions upon receipt of payment,” Garret said. “In the meantime, I’ve got some preparations to make.” Garret turned away and didn’t bother to listen for a reply. He could almost hear the other man’s teeth grind in frustration. He listened as the other man struggled a moment to think up some way to dig himself out of the hole he’d dug and then turned and stalked away. This kind of move was exactly the sleazy treatment he’d come to expect from Mannetti’s people. Why, after all, did they need to even pretend to be fair to the hired help?

Garret loved to turn that around on one of them, especially since he had caught the other man trying to cheat him. The War Dogs couldn’t afford the best munitions, but if they were transferring over enough to augment the Halcyon ships, then it would a quantity be worth hundreds of thousands in any currency worth mentioning. The crews of those ships needed those munitions, Garret didn’t doubt. So far, they and the War Dogs had gone on two similar ‘raids’ with Admiral Mannetti. To Garret, it looked more like the Admiral wanted to use them in high visibility missions to lessen her own exposure.

Commodore Pierce had remained remarkably quiet about why they had remained under the contract at Garris Major. Garret had fully expected news that they would depart just after they’d turned over Heinlein Base to the locals. Instead, the Commodore had attended a number of meetings with the newly elected President Monaghan and his staff. One of dad’s old cronies, Garret thought, if I remember right.

“You want me to let them know to prepare to transfer the missiles?” Heller asked. Her light voice and thick accent somehow managed to make even that sound sexy, Garret noted. He nodded, “Yeah, but don’t authorize movement until payment clears.”

“Ya, of course,” Heller said with a roll of her eyes. She popped her ear-buds back in and bounced away. The small, blonde woman looked almost like a teenager as she flounced away.

Garret just shook his head and headed for the War Dogs offices. The huge bays of Heinlein Base were originally built for commerce, but they served more than adequately for warships. His eyes picked out the men and women of his squadron as they moved out after the patrol. Clint, Jason, and Caela headed with purpose towards the civilian section, no doubt to find a card game and company. Ted, more cerebral, looked to be headed for the barracks, no doubt to dive into a book or one of his strategy games. Jay and Ahmad both had girlfriends among the crew and they headed off together in a rush that made Garret smirk a bit.

The other four, Hugh, Tyrone, Jacel, and Jude, all oversaw the post-flight maintenance as the flight crews serviced their Hammers. The big gunboats required extensive maintenance after each flight, far more than a fighter or even dedicated bomber. The gun systems, especially, caused intense structural stresses on their hulls, but also all of the auxiliary systems, engines, and every other part of the big craft needed a full inspection after each flight and extensive maintenance.

Garret worked his way over to the War Dogs’s offices. Almost as soon as he stepped inside, he found Commodore Pierce waiting. “What’s this I hear about you refusing to transfer munitions?”

Garret sighed, “Not refusing, just requiring proof of payment, first, sir.”

“Well, good job, then,” Commodore Pierce said. “It didn’t sound right when that sniveling worm called me a moment ago. How did the patrol go?”

That was one thing that Garret loved about the War Dogs. Some mercenary companies went with rigid military structures and enforced draconian discipline, to the point that reporting was an intensive process. “No sign of any activity from the RLF at Eldorado, but we didn’t have time to linger and do a full scan. I uploaded our data already to our network, if you want, I’ll go brief Josh on it.” Captain Josh Wachope was the War Dogs’ operations officer.

“Nah, he’ll want to review it and compare it to what Mannetti’s people sent us from last week. I think they filtered their sensor data before they turned it over.” The tall, blonde man shook his head, “I’m about entirely fed up with those lying bastards at this point. If not for…” he trailed off and shot Garret a sharp glance. “Well, let’s just say that the locals are lucky we’re still here.”

“Right,” Garret nodded. It was reassuring, in many ways, to see that the Commodore had the same feeling as far as Admiral Mannetti. At the same time, Garret felt uncomfortable about the thought of leaving the planet to her tender mercies, especially since they didn’t seem to realize how dangerous their alliance with her was becoming. In some ways, the War Dogs prevented Admiral Mannetti from entirely leveraging the colony into her pocket.

“Garret,” Pierce’s tone changed and Garret heard the slightest hesitation in the other man’s voice. “I know that you are originally from Halcyon. I haven’t brought it up before… I know damned well where your loyalty lies.”

Garret stood a little straighter at that. His face flushed, though with his dark complexion it would have been hard to tell. The War Dogs weren’t just any mercenary company, in many ways they were family. Better than his family had been, anyway. “Thank you, sir.”

The Commodore shrugged, “Just calling things the way I see them.” He cleared his throat, “However… I wonder if you might have contacts, here?”

“What do you mean by that, sir?” Garret asked. He felt uneasy at the thought. Granted, he hadn’t any loyalty to the planet, but the way his superior had phrased it, it almost sounded as if they were talking about spying on their employers. Which is just good business sense for a mercenary company, Garret thought.

“Friends, former companions, even family,” Commodore Pierce said. “Anyone that you can talk with, possibly even leverage. There’s more here than their struggle for independence, you’ve seen that. Hell, it’s half the talk of our company. The shift to privateering went too quickly, their crews were too eager, and their government is getting too friendly with the likes of Admiral Mannetti and Admiral Collae.”

Garret shrugged uncomfortably. Not that he disagreed. “Sir, what does that have to do with us?” Granted, Admiral Mannetti and her people were snakes, but Admiral Collae had something of a good reputation as an opponent to the corrupt leaders of many of the Colonial Republic systems.

“I want to know why they’re making such a big deal about such a backwater world. They pissed in the faces of the Centauri Confederation and they seem to count on the likes of Admiral Mannetti to keep them safe… and I want to know why they trust a pirate so much and what leverage they think they have on her. Because if their assumptions are wrong… we’re going to be left holding the bag.” Pierce leaned back against the wall, “And I don’t like being left holding the bag.”

“Yes, sir,” Garret said. He frowned in thought. When he’d left, he hadn’t stayed in touch with anyone, for good reason. My father was vindictive enough, Garret thought darkly, that he would have used my old friends against me. Of course, he could always try to to talk to Jessica…

“I’ll figure something out, sir,” Garret said. Yet he felt a spike of unease. If there was some mysterious leverage, then he didn’t doubt that his father was involved up to his neatly trimmed beard. Spencer Penwaithe lived off of wealth and power like food and drink… and his plots were always labyrinthine. For that matter, the new President was one of his father’s old cronies, which basically ensured that his father was running things, or thought he was, from behind the scenes. Getting involved in this would almost definitely draw him into his father’s schemes yet again. On the other hand, with the fate of the War Dogs on the line, there wasn’t really much choice. Garret let out a deep breath, “After all, I remember where my loyalty lies.”

“Good,” Commodore Pierce gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Oh, and when Mannetti’s people call you back on the missiles, tell them there was an accounting error and that we’re hiking the price by ten percent.”

***

The Shattered Empire will be available on Amazon on the 25th of October, 2014.  Read below for the blurb.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they wanted. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

The Shattered Empire Third Sample

Here’s the third section from The Shattered Empire!  Follow the links to read the first and second ones.

 

Eldorado, Garris Major System

Colonial Republic

May 3rd, 2403

Lauren Kelly stepped down off the loading ramp and took a deep breath of fresh air. She coughed it out almost immediately as the acrid fumes of the spaceport cut into the back of her throat. Her companion continued down the ramp. His long, panther-like stride took him to where a customs agent waited. Lauren watched the two speak briefly. She didn’t see when Mason slipped the agent a bribe, but a moment later the other man left. “How much did that cost us?” She asked.

Mason turned. “More than I’d like. I guess there’s some kind of revolution going on in the system. We aren’t carrying a prohibited cargo, but I didn’t want him looking at our navigation computer and wondering what we have to do with what’s going on in Faraday.”

“Do you think they’ve heard anything here yet?” Lauren asked. She wasn’t terribly surprised about some kind of revolt here. More than half the systems in the Colonial Republic had insurrections or uprisings. Most of those were from fractured ethnic or political lines, though some were ostensibly about freedom.

“About your Baron Lucius?” Mason smirked, even as his eyes swept the dingy landing pad for eavesdroppers. “Probably about his defeat of the Chxor at Faraday. Definitely rumors about the Dreyfus Fleet.” He stepped forward and took her duffel off her shoulder. He spoke the next part in a low tone, “Hopefully they’ve heard nothing about Mason McGann’s involvement.”

Lauren nodded, oddly relieved that she, at least, had no personal infamy to worry about She had possessed somewhat of a reputation back at Faraday for her actions during a mutiny aboard a Chxor ship and later during a ground attack against a planetary defense base. Neither of those put her remotely near as juicy a subject of discussion as a former pirate turned smuggler who’d once run with Tommy King. Even that must be easier than actually being Tommy King.

“Let’s go, I’ve locked down the ship, and there’s someone I’d like you to meet,” Mason said. Lauren smiled slightly, glad to see the eagerness in his face. His expression had looked so hard in the aftermath of the battle against the Chxor.

“Who’s this, I thought you didn’t have any friends?” Lauren asked.

He led the way through a doorway and then out into the crowded streets. “I don’t,” Mason said, over his shoulder. “He’s more like a teacher.” Something in his voice suggested that their relationship was more friendship than he would like to admit.

The industrial smell of the spaceport blended with the stench of unwashed bodies and the faint reek of an open sewer. Lauren fought back a memory of her childhood raised under Chxor occupation. She clenched her fists and blinked away sudden tears.

She continued to follow Mason, though her enjoyment of being on a new world had vanished with the memories of the one she’d been born to. She absently wondered if she would ever kill enough Chxor to make her feel better about her childhood. No… not ever, she thought, not even if I could kill them all at once. She’d become so caught up in her own thoughts that she nearly ran into Mason’s back when he stopped suddenly.

The first thing she noticed was the sudden tensing of his shoulders. “Mason?”

He slowly set her duffel down, “Wait here.”

He stepped forward and she saw his hands brush his prayer beads. A moment later, those same hands came to rest on his holstered pistols.

Lauren sidestepped into a nearby doorway and her hand fell to her own pistol. The street Mason had led her down seemed to empty of people as she watched. Mason had stopped, three or four meters away from the ornate entrance to a walled courtyard.

As if on cue, three men stepped out of the shadows of the gate. All three were big men and carried weapons. The two flankers carried submachine guns, Lauren saw. The one in the center held a drawn pistol, not quite aimed at Mason. He was the one who spoke, “Took you long enough to get here. Almost thought you hadn’t got the message.”

“I hadn’t,” Mason said, “I’ve been… detained. What’s this about?”

Something caught Lauren’s attention above. Her eyes flicked to the rooftops to where two men took up overwatch positions, rifles held ready.

“Just a friendly chat,” the speaker said. “Our boss had no bone to pick with the priest. What happened here could have been avoided if he’d cooperated sooner.”

Lauren drew her own pistol as she saw Mason’s body stance shift. Even so, she barely had it out of the holster before his first shots rang out. The three men in the doorway were down. She had her pistol trained on the nearest of the men on the rooftop. Even as she squeezed the trigger, four more shots rang out, so rapidly they might have come from a machine gun.

One of the men fell onto the street, body limp. The other, struck by her shots and Mason’s, flopped back out of sight. Lauren peered around. Her heart beat rapidly. The burnt smell of smokeless powder stung her nose. “That’s all of them,” Mason said, his voice flat and emotionless as a robot. There were times he scared the hell out of her.

His cold blue eyes met hers and he frowned, “Are you alright?”

Lauren nodded, “I’m fine.”

Mason cleared his throat, “I… have to see this, but if you want…” A part of her cringed at his tone, for she knew exactly what he expected to find in this place. He hadn’t spoke of it much during the voyage, but the few words he’d said had held tones of reverence.

He expected to face the worst – his sanctuary, the place he found his soul again – to be violated. And he’s willing to face it alone, Lauren thought, as if I would leave him. Lauren said, “No, I’ll come.” She stepped forward and picked up her duffel to stand by his side. He smiled, at her and she smiled back.

The stepped through the gate and Lauren bit back a shout of surprise at what she saw on the other side. The wall had concealed a large, open compound. Dozens of trees, some in bloom with bright pink flowers, sat in clusters around small buildings. In the center, a larger stone building squatted. It consisted of many heavy stone pillars supporting a roof that seemed more curves and angles than anything else.

Boiling out of that structure came dozens of men and women in brightly embroidered robes. The ocular impact almost reset her brain after the dingy brown streets of the city. The crowd came to a halt, their leader an ancient old man with, what Lauren judged, what had to be the most absurd hat she’d ever seen in her life. It towered, a mass of feathers, beads, bells, and possibly acres of silk.

He managed to bow gracefully and Lauren repressed a giggle at the fact that the hat stayed firmly in place. “Mason, it is good to see you.”

Mason looked stunned, “Lan, it’s very good to see you, I thought–”

“You thought they had killed me,” The old man spoke calmly.

“Yes. I’m glad you’re alright.” Mason let out a deep breath. “Did they say why they came?” The old man nodded, his face expressionless, serene in a way that made Lauren feel uncomfortable. Not nearly as uncomfortable as his next words, though. “Yes, they came looking for Tommy King.”

***

The Shattered Empire will be available on the 25th of October, 2014 from Amazon.  Read below for the teaser.

Baron Lucius Giovanni has managed to buy the human race a brief reprieve from the two alien races which seek humanity’s extinction. In the process he has become the leader of a new nation and the commander of a powerful fleet. However, victory comes with consequences. Without an imminent threat, old feuds have sparked back to life and tenuous alliances falter. There are also old enemies who cannot forget that Lucius has what they wanted. He must find a way to hold off scheming rivals, sociopathic psychics, and even former friends. If he can’t do all that and take the fight to humanity’s true enemies, billions may die under alien servitude.

The Shattered Empire Second Sample

Here’s the second sample from The Shattered Empire, picking up where I left off in the first one, here.

“Command, Azure Actual, targets down, we are black on primary ammo, new orders?” Garret asked. His gaze went to the developing battle as the enemy capital ships closed with the Warwagon. They had launched their fighters and his sensors showed areas to avoid as the old dreadnought filled the space around it with interceptor fire. Going to be one hell of a mess to clean up no matter how this ends, Garret thought. That was the downside of projectile weapons, bombs, and missiles. Energy weapons diffused, eventually, the others just caused additional navigational hazards.

“Azure Squadron, standby,” Commodore Pierce said gruffly. “Attention Centauri Confederation ships, this is Commodore Frank Pierce of the Halcyon Defense Fleet.” Garret rolled his eyes at that. They were mercenaries, it seemed silly to hide under a title that meant nothing. “We have declared our independence from the Colonial Republic. We have no desire to fight you and should you stand down, you will be allowed to withdraw.”

The voice that responded held all of the familiar arrogance of the Centauri military. “That’s a grandiose proclamation. Regardless of what your transponders say, you have attacked, unprovoked, ships and property belonging to Nova Corp, which is made up of Centauri Confederation citizens. That requires retaliation… and your pathetic antique is not going to stop four top-of-the-line warships from exacting that retribution.” The Centauri Commander’s harsh accent added that special touch of totalitarian arrogance to his statement, Garret decided. Maybe I should give him a character reference to work with my father, he thought dryly.

“Perhaps not,” Commodore Pierce said, his gruff voice calm. “But we have no grudge with the Centauri Confederation or its citizens… and I have to wonder how much loyalty you have in corporate interests.” Garret watched the Warwagon close with the Centauri ships. On his screens he could see that the Helot had withdrawn out of the immediate fight. Garret chewed on his lip at the bluff from the Commodore. They couldn’t take on the four ships, not without some serious advantages. He knew why they’d targeted Nova Corp’s goons first. Hitting corporate security mercenaries was one thing, taking on Centauri Confederation warships was another. But it looked like they would have to do that anyway at this point and Garret would have rather punched a cruiser than a couple of destroyers in that case.

“Azure Squadron, form up in screen position delta along vector seven three,” Captain Gizmon said softly over their encrypted net. Garret relayed the command even as he tried to figure out what the plan was. That screening position would allow the gunboats to provide interceptor fire for any missiles fired from the enemy ships. But getting there meant they would have to swing wide of the fighters currently engaged with the Warwagon.

It must be as a response to the carrier, which began to spew forth fighters at an alarming rate. The sensors relay from the Warwagon painted them as Harassers, the Nova Roma combat fighter. Those were tough, powerful craft, Garret knew. He had a single brush against the Nova Roma Fleet once, before he joined up with the War Dogs. He and the other few survivors from that mercenary company had learned a solid lesson on the capabilities of Harassers.

Still, Harassers weren’t nearly as tough as the Hammers of his squadron and the extended missile racks that Azure squadron carried would thin their numbers as they closed. His squadron formed up and swept around into position, even as he watched the enemy attack wave form up on his sensors.

“This is your last warning, friend,” Commodore Pierce said. “Power down your ships or we’ll use whatever force necessary.” Garret shook his head at that. They were seriously outgunned. Still, clearly the Commodore thought they had some kind of edge, else they would have disengaged. They were mercenaries and there was no profit in suicide.

Garret’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the enemy carrier had launched what looked like assault shuttles. Why would they need to launch those, he wondered, it’s not like they’d want to board the Warwagon. The ancient dreadnought was probably worth more to the Centauri as scrap than as a warship. Besides, they would have to knock a ship completely out of action to use boarding shuttles with any chance of success. Even a few functional turrets could shred those craft.

Garret spared a glance at the civilian traffic. Most of it had cleared out, all but a pair of civilian transports caught in between the two closing forces. Either they assumed that by staying powered down they’d be unnoticed or they simply hadn’t had time to bring up their engines. Either way, Garret would hate to be in their position. As he thought that, the Centauri formation swept past the two ships. A moment later, they both detonated. At first, Garret assumed that the Centauri had fired on them or that they’d just been unlucky enough to take a random hit. But that didn’t make sense, Garret knew. They had detonated simultaneously and the huge spike of radiation from them both suggested something else altogether. The intense burst blinded his sensors for a long moment as Heller cursed her way through a reboot process. As his sensors went live again, it took Garret a while to figure out what they showed.

The four Centauri Confederation ships drifted without even emergency power. The assault shuttles from the carrier dove in among them and Garret zoomed in his gun camera to see the shuttles slam home into the warships. Must have been some kind of device, high yield radiation burst, he thought, something that knocked the engines out or maybe caused some kind of electromagnetic interference.

“Commodore Pierce, so wonderful of the War Dogs to join us,” a woman’s voice said. “It is always a pleasure to work with such a consummate professional.” Her voice was almost as sultry as Heller, but held an edge of arrogance that managed to set Garret’s teeth on edge.

“Admiral Mannetti,” Commodore Pierce said calmly. “Thank you for the assistance. I assume our employers approved of your tactic… though it would have been nice for you to warn us. Half my forward sensors are still down.”

“We had to maintain the element of surprise, darling,” Admiral Mannetti answered. “Don’t worry, it shouldn’t cause any lasting harm to your ships, just requires a reset at your range. Our friends, however, will be unable to bring their power systems online for several hours. My boarding crews will secure all four vessels before then.” Garret blanched as he remembered where he’d heard that name. She was some kind of rogue Nova Roma officer, more pirate than mercenary. Clearly she’d worked out some kind of deal with Halcyon… which made Garret’s lips twist in disgust. Hadn’t they learned how dangerous it was to bring in unscrupulous types from what happened with Nova Corp?

Yet, as his gaze finally slipped over to stare at the clouded blue sky of his homeworld, some part of him understood, at least, why they’d done it. Even so, he wondered how far they were willing to go… and just how dangerous their new allies were.

***

The Shattered Empire will be available on the 25th of October.  I’ll be doing a Book Bomb on October 25th at noon.  It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon here and will be available on Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo soon!