The Shattered Empire First Sample

The Shattered Empire, Book II of the Shadow Space Chronicles, will be published on 24 October.  While I’m doing the final editing, I thought I’d put up a sample section for those of you who want their fix.  For reference, this is from the prologue and actually takes place before Lucius’s battle with the Balor at Faraday from The Fallen Race.

 

Halcyon, Garris Major System

Contested

April 1, 2403

In one of the absurdities of the universe, Garret returned to Halcyon to fight and die over a decade after he had sworn to his father he would rather die than ever come back home. Old bastard probably finds it amusing, Garret thought, assuming he even knows his son has signed on with this band of mercs. The tight confines of the cockpit cradled his two meter tall frame in way that had become familiar rather than uncomfortable. His dark face, under his flight helmet, split with a snarl at the irony.

“Two minutes!” Garret called out over his command net. His hands went over the familiar controls of his Hammer-class gunship. The bulky, brutal craft was slow, awkward, and designed with a principle of brute force.

That brute force was something he appreciated as he watched the countdown. The Garris Major System belonged to the Colonial Republic and would have Colonial Republic ships to secure it. However, the oligarchy which controlled most of the system was in the pockets of Nova Corp, which was chartered out of the Centauri Confederation. Nova Corp would have mercenaries and quite possibly Centauri Confederation warships to secure their interests.

Halcyon Colony was one of their holdings. They wouldn’t want to give the planet up, especially not after their xenoarcheological discovery. Pottery shards they didn’t care for, but intact alien technology was something that Nova Corp would fight to keep… and they wouldn’t hesitate to have their mercenaries and bribed naval elements smash the incursion into their territory.

As if someone like Nova Corp really deserves anything on Halcyon, Garret thought darkly. Political refugees from Old Earth’s North America had founded Halcyon Colony, illegally, over decades of clandestine work and smuggled people and equipment. The cloudy blue world had little to recommend it for a colony world with limited mineral wealth and only one rocky, mountainous landmass… which was why Amalgamated Worlds had disregarded it, originally. Their colony had stayed under the radar until Amalgamated Worlds had fallen… and the Colonial Republic’s paramilitary forces had encouraged them to join under the Garris Major Unification. The trinary system had four inhabited worlds, with the largest populations on Eldorado and Santa Cruz in orbit around the star Astero. The planet Infierno served as a penal colony during the revolution against Amalgamated Worlds and later for Presidente Salazar’s political opponents, its star, Estrella, was relatively close to Astero. The presence of Halcyon had been hidden by the extreme distance of Menor from the other two stars, a trip that could take days or weeks depending on the drives of the ships involved. That isolation had at first proven a barrier against much involvement from the ruler of Santa Cruz.

But things change, Garret thought darkly, the old man brought this, all because he couldn’t leave things well enough alone. Garret shook his head and tried to clear his mind. The past didn’t matter, not right now. He had to keep his mind focused on the important issues. He glanced at his display, “Thirty seconds,” he said.

His squadron shouldn’t need the reminder. Garret heard Heller’s music cut off in the jump seat behind him. He restrained a sigh as the woman spoke, “We have updated sensor feed, no?” It just wasn’t fair that she had such a sexy voice, he thought, and with that German accent, no less. Not that he minded, it just was somewhat hard to concentrate sometimes. Especially since he had been strapped in his jump seat for the past thirty hours of their trip through shadow space with no one else to talk with. Even so, he welcomed the conversation. His normally shaved-bare head had a layer of stubble, as did his jaw, and he itched with stale sweat and a grunge that only came from being trapped in a flight suit for over a day.

“No update, yet,” Garret said. The rebels on Halcyon hadn’t wanted to risk seizing their ansible station until after the battle kicked off in orbit. That was an understandable caution, he knew. Nova Corp wouldn’t hesitate to nuke it from orbit and the Colonial Republic ships would probably take giving away their positions to an inbound force rather poorly as well. Still, the rebels said they had a couple merchant ships in place with sensor data ready to upload upon their arrival.

That would have to do. The War Dog’s forces would arrive at long range. Ideally, they would catch the Colonial Republic ships powered down or even at dock with Halcyon’s lunar Heinlein Base, which meant they could demand their surrender or even seize them before the ships would have a chance to take off. Whatever security Nova Corp had, however, was a different matter entirely.

On that cue, the gray nothingness of shadow space vanished, replaced by the star-studded wonder of normal space. Granted, Garret could only see it through his displays, but the familiar stars of his homeworld almost brought tears to his eyes. The targeting data that almost immediately appeared on his screens might have had something to do with that, though.

“Azure Squadron, detach,” Garret called out. He listened to the acknowledgments even as he watched their icons form up around him and the icons of the other ships in their force shift to the attack. As usual, he saw that Hugh’s Hammer was slightly out of position. “Hugh, adjust your vector by three seven four.”

“Roger, Commander,” Hugh said. “I swear they need to recalibrate my sensors again.” His drawl, was, as usual, totally relaxed. Whatever the reason for being off, he adjusted course and fell into formation properly… which let Garret focus on the enemy as the sensor feed from the rebels populated.

Well, that’s a bit worse than we expected, Garret thought. The rebels had plotted the course of what looked like a pair of destroyers, probably the Nova Corp mercenaries they expected. There was also a trio of cruisers and a battlecruiser, however. Even worse was the fourth enemy ship, what looked like a Helot-class carrier. That’s definitely not supposed to be there, he thought, what the hell does Nova Corp have a beast like that out here for? The Helot could carry an entire wing of fighters directly into battle, protected behind heavy armor and its defense screens.

“Azure squadron, target priority is updated,” Commodore Pierce said. “Let the big ships fight it out, take down their auxiliaries, understood?” As always, the mercenary commander sounded gruff, irritated, and a little bored. There was a running joke among the War Dogs that the day Commodore Pierce sounded surprised would be the day they threw in the towel.

“Azure, roger,” Garret acknowledged. The Warwagon was old, a dreadnought built before Amalgamated Worlds had risen to power, back when Earth nations still existed and had star ships of their own. While it was heavily refitted, it would be at a very marked disadvantage against the Centauri battlecruiser and trio of cruisers. They would have superior maneuvers and acceleration and their weapons were far more up to date.

Still, it wasn’t his place to argue strategy with the Commodore, especially not in the middle of a battle. “Squadron, form on me.” He uploaded their targeting priorities even as he monitored the rest of the battle. Assault shuttles from the Warwagon descended towards Heinlein Base. The base was originally built as a civilian transhipment facility. The Colonial Republic had repurposed it as their garrison above the fractious Halcyon Colony when Garret was still a boy. The assault shuttles were in a race, Garret knew. They had to get in before the base defenses went online. Against a hardened and skilled opponent, it would have been suicidal. Against the standard Colonial Republic conscripts, it was merely risky.

Garret brought his Hammer up in line with his squadron’s targets. The two Centauri built destroyers had clearly been modified, their emissions spiked higher than standard Enforcer-class destroyers, anyway. Garret’s targeting reticule began to flash as he lined his craft up with the first target. The Hammer was a gunboat, a light craft built around it’s mass driver. The mass driver was rightfully a weapon for a destroyer or cruiser, it fired a heavy projectile at near-relativistic speeds. A destroyer might mount a battery of four or more, while each of the six gunboats in Garret’s squadron mounted one. The problem was, they had to line up their vessels on the target to engage, they couldn’t mount them in turrets like a real warship.

“Fire on my mark,” Garret said, as his reticule chirped to show that they had acquired the target. His display showed the squadron similarly aligned. Under normal circumstances, at thirty thousand kilometers, their mass drivers would be horribly inaccurate, even the slightest movement by their target would give it more than enough separation between the standard tungsten shelled, depleted uranium core rods that a mass driver fired.

“Fire,” Garret snapped. Azure squadron fired. The gunboat only carried five rounds and as each one fired it slammed Garret forward in his harness in a reminder of why they were called Hammers. “Adjust targeting data,” Garret said as his squadron’s indicators went black on ammunition for their main guns.

He started to key over his own targets even as he monitored their fire. The two destroyers they had targeted had brought up their engines from standby and their defense screens were flickering into place. They also began to maneuver, which would have made them safe against the standard munitions. The rounds fired by Azure Squadron, however, were upgraded, some of the latest technology available from Port Klast. Maneuvering thrusters on the rounds kicked in and the compact booster drives mounted on them burned briefly to correct their course, guided in by the laser designators mounted on each Hammer.

Someone in the squadron gave a whoop as the lead destroyer received a dozen impacts. The warship shattered, ripped apart as the high velocity rounds punched through the defense screens and then ripped through the destroyers light armor. The impacts vaporized huge sections of it’s hull. It simply came apart in an explosion of debris.

The second destroyer had a few seconds more to begin evasive maneuvers before the first rounds guided in. It managed to generate a miss for the first few rounds, until it took a glancing blow to the starboard engines. The next hit must have punched through it’s engine room, possibly even its reactor, because the destroyer vanished in a fireball as its power plant erupted.

 

Check back later this week for the next section!

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