Here’s another snippet from The Prodigal Emperor, available for pre-order now on Amazon. This is a short one, from the perspective of “Stavros.”
Halcyon Colony, Garris Major System
November 23, 2403
“While it has been delightful to train together,” Captain Montago said, “I’m really getting tired of this shit. When do we get to the fighting and looting?”
“Soon enough, my friend, soon enough,” Mason said in the guise of Commodore Stavros Heraklion. It is rather disturbing how easily I’ve pulled off this role, Mason thought, and even worse in that I enjoy it a bit. He put his boots up on the table and looked around at the other commanders present. Each of them represented a ship or squadron of light ships. A couple of them, like Captain Mantago, were pirates who had signed on with Halcyon’s government for a safe base of operations and a cut in the overall profits. Others, like Captain Oronkwo and Captain Garret Penwaithe, were guild mercenaries, hired by Halcyon’s government from the Tannis system.
Though I have a low opinion of mercenaries, even guild mercs, Mason thought, I will say that Oronkwo seems pretty solid and that Frank Pierce picked a damned good officer in Garret Penwaithe… even if I did have to save his ass in that bar fight.
“President Monaghan has put special trust in my capabilities as a squadron leader… and Councilor Penwaithe as our direct representative from him has told me that our last training performance showed we’re ready,” Mason smirked. They had run a simulated exercise against some of Halcyon Defense Fleet. Most of them were decent enough, but they didn’t have enough leadership or experience. His squadron had won a very one-sided victory, another embarrassment for Admiral Moore. Councilor Penwaithe’s angry diatribe about building relationships and teamwork between privateers and military had been punctuated by her informing them that they were ready for active raiding.
And since embarrassing Admiral Moore makes both Mannetti and Collae happy with me, Mason thought, that was two birds with one stone, so to speak. His whole purpose here was to find out what the two rogue military commanders wanted in this tiny system. So far he had hints at some greater conspiracy and a notion that there was some recovered alien technology that the locals seemed to have tight control over and that the pair of them wanted it. Given the fact that both of them had grudges with Baron Giovanni and his United Colonies, it seemed prudent to thwart them.
While the notion of a greater conspiracy bothered him, Mason felt more concern about the alien technology. He had lived under Amalgamated Worlds and as a military officer he’d seen how the Agathan Fleet had developed from a handful of wreckage and the genius of a single man able to figure it all out. For that matter, the Kraken was of possible alien origin, and the real Captain Stavros had ran amok across a dozen star systems with the heavy cruiser until Mason had finally put an end to the man’s bloody swath of destruction.
The various commanders seemed eager at Mason’s declaration, so he shook off his thoughts and put on his best Stavros leer, “We’ll be leaving in a few days, our target is another Nova Corp facility. It should be a lot of fun, boys and girls. And trust me, we’ll be seeing a lot of profit off this one.”
The smiles on the pirate and privateer captains were all that Mason could have hoped for. The frowns and worry on the faces of the two mercenary Captains was also what Mason had hoped for. He had already worked things out with Commodore Frank Pierce, the commander of the War Dogs and Captain Penwaithe’s superior, but they had kept his subordinates in the dark. Captain Oronkwo had no ties to Mason, though, and Mason wanted him to be uneasy about all this. He was here to do a job and while he wouldn’t turn up his nose at profit, he was uneasy about the pirates he had to work with.
That was good, in Mason’s eyes. If both mercenaries were suspicious and on edge, then if Admiral Mannetti or Admiral Collae made their plays, then Captain Oronkwo and Captain Penwaithe might very well see it coming and take appropriate action. That might just swing things in Mason’s favor and prevent the two rogue Admirals from getting their way. And that is essential, Mason thought, or else all of this Stavros routine is just me playing dress-up for no good reason.
The Prodigal Emperor is the third book of the Shadow Space Chronicles and is available for pre-order now. It will be published on 19 September, 2015.