Tag Archives: sci-fi

What’s on Kal’s Reading List

Hey everyone.  Just a short post as I note a few books that have come out recently that I’m itching to read.  I thought I’d note them for you, so you can check them out too!

First up is Jason Cordova’s Darkling.  It’s the second book of his Kin Wars series and just from the cover, it looks awesome.  As one friend of mine said, nobody is going to argue with someone who carries a sword like that.  Having met Jason, I have no doubt that he can tell a fun, fast-paced story and I plan on reading it and posting a review as soon as life calms down long enough to let me.

 

Next up is a co-authored book that I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about.  Chris Kennedy and Thomas A. May’s The Mutineer’s Daughter.  It’s military space opera where a father and daughter are faced with conflicting duties and responsibilities, and where they have to chose to follow orders, or to do the right thing.  Again, it’s got a fantastic cover and a great story description, so I’ll be giving it a look soon.

If you end up reading (or have read) either of them, let me know what you think!

Valor’s Calling Now Available!

Valor’s Calling is now available from Amazon!

http://amzn.to/2fuCp8I

 

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster.  She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem.  Jiden made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

Valor’s Calling Snippet Three

Here’s the third and final snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first two here and here.  Valor’s Child is available today from Amazon!

The Enclave was weird. As we drove through it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The buildings were all squat and low to the ground, vehicle garages were all underground. It wasn’t a big city, or at least it didn’t seem to be.

That was, right up until Karmazin drove down into what looked like an oversized garage… and the road kept going. I craned my head around in surprise as I saw that the road descended into the ground, winding deeper and deeper.

Karmazin gave his smirk, “My people come from Dalite Three, what we call Acrotan, where the cities are all underground. The planet’s environment isn’t as friendly as here.”

I shot him a disbelieving look. Century was a dry, dusty world. We didn’t get anything near a winter and it only ever rained near the two polar seas. I hadn’t ever heard anyone call our world “friendly.” It’s a dry, barren dust-ball, and most of us think our ancestors were crazy for leaving behind the cool green hills of Earth…

“We’re used to living underground,” Karmazin went on. “Most of the Enclave is below ground. It’s easier to maintain temperatures and it provides better defenses that way, too.”

“Who are you defending against?” I asked.

“Anyone who might attack,” Karmazin hedged. It was a vague enough statement to make me feel uneasy. I’d heard that Enclave citizens were prohibited from service in the Century Planetary Militia by a recent Charter Council decree. Was that because they felt the Enclave was some kind of security risk? For that matter, if there is some kind of fight, which side would Karmazin pick?

I knew they were refugees, from the Three Day War with the Dalite Confederacy. I hadn’t expected them to have defenses or for their aerospace port to look so militarized.

Karmazin pulled into a side street and then into a vehicle garage. He climbed out, “I’ll help you out with your bags,” he offered, moving to open the cargo compartment.

“I’m good,” I said quickly. “I can’t stay long, this is just a quick visit on my way to the Admiral’s house.” The words came out before I could help them. I’d planned

He cocked his head at me, “You’re sure?” There was something in his voice, almost an edge of disappointment. I wasn’t going to think about that, though.

“Yeah,” I forced myself to smile. “I’ve got a lot of the pre-class assignments to knock out.” That wasn’t a lie. I still had several papers to write and three more books to read. I hadn’t even started the military ethics research paper itself yet, in part because I felt like it was sort of pointless.

I’d planned on working with Ashiri and Karmazin. I can do it on my own. The very thought of spending hours with them left me feeling sick. “There’s an evening flight I’ll need to catch, I just have a few hours.”

I had seen there was an evening flight. I had no idea if they had any seats left, but I was going to the aerospace terminal regardless. I’d spend the night there if necessary.

“Well,” Karmazin said, “I’ll give you the quick tour, then.” He gave me a solemn nod, almost as if I’d hurt his feelings. Well, he probably should have thought of that before he started dating my best friend.

I banished the thought before I could go on. I wasn’t going to resent my friends. This wasn’t their fault. I was the one who’d changed her mind. I was the one who had been wrong and I couldn’t expect things to be the way I’d secretly dreamed they’d be.

“This way,” Ashiri said, leading the way. I followed them through the door.

Alexander Karmazin’s home was far more spartan than I’d expected. There was a small dining room, a smaller living room, both with a few simple prefabricated tables and chairs. There were a couple of decorative holoprojectors, which painted two of the walls with vistas of a rainy, lush planet.   I thought I recognized the pattern as one of the default settings, one that most people typically replaced with some kind of custom display.

A tall, dark-haired woman greeted us as we stepped inside. She have Ashiri and I both nods, “Ashiri, welcome back.” Her gray eyes locked on me. There was something watchful there, evaluative and somehow threatening, as if she didn’t know what to make of me. “You must be Jiden Armstrong. I’ve heard quite a bit from Alexander about you.” She had the same olive skin, the same quiet watchfulness as Alexander, I saw.

“Jiden,” Alexander Karmazin said, “this is my mother, Diane Karmazin.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” I said.

“Yes,” Alexander’s mother said. I wasn’t sure if that was agreement with what I’d said or simply an acknowledgment. “Alexander tells me that you’ll be staying for a few days?” Her voice almost sounded resigned.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “I’d meant to clarify, I only had time to swing through and say hello, I’m quite a bit behind on my studies.”

“That’s too bad,” Alexander’s mother replied. She somehow managed to make that sound both sincere and insincere at the same time. I didn’t know if that was because she really didn’t want me here or if she somehow realized why I didn’t want to stay. Either way, I was eager enough to take that as a way to make my exit.

“Well,” I said, studiously glancing at my datapad, “I probably should get back to the terminal if I’m going to catch my flight.” I looked up, “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”

“Of course,” Alexander said. He was looking at his mother though, almost as if he sensed something was wrong. I had no idea what was going on, but I felt like leaving was going to be the best thing I could do.

All I wanted to do was get out of there and I think Alexander was really regretting the invitation to visit. I felt like an idiot, but I managed to say polite things as I backed out and Alexander gave me a ride back to the terminal. I passed the trip in silence. Thankfully, he didn’t seem very talkative, either.

***

 

A few hours later I’d boarded a commercial skimmer and had my datapad out while I worked on some of my projects. I’d been lucky to get a ticket on the flight, the only one leaving the Enclave that day… but I’d scrapped my plans of staying with Karmazin and his family. Not with his relationship with Ashiri.

I’d managed to message the Admiral to let her know I was coming a few days early, just before I boarded. Now I was buried in work. Some people hated to work on a flight, but I welcomed the chance to tune everything out, to not think about how my expectations had been completely overturned.

The skimmer was surprisingly empty for a holiday season flight. It made me wonder if Karmazin’s people celebrated Christmas… or for that matter, if they celebrated off-season from everyone else. After all they were from another world. I knew there were some Christian and Jewish sects that followed the standard Earth twelve month calendar, in spite of the fact that it didn’t remotely match up to Century’s fifteen month years and three seasons.

My mind went off on a bit of a tangent, sort of wandering as I stared out the window. I watched the hydrogen-powered gas turbine, just sort of staring at the heat distortion from the jet wash. It was mesmerizing and I just sort of watched as the superheated gasses blurred the setting sun and desert.

I had a perfect view of the missile that came streaking in at us.

My eyes went wide as I realized what I was seeing. But by the time I could open my mouth to shout a warning, there was a flash of light and the entire skimmer shuddered. The detonation was muted, but the skimmer went into a spin. I heard shouts and screams from the other passengers and the whine of the turbines altered pitch. The smooth flight became a rough spin and I was smashed against the side window. Staring out, I had a great view of the burning engine as the skimmer cork-screwed towards the ground.

I’m going to die. The thought wasn’t as jarring as it should have been. I’d nearly died several times. It just seemed unfair that I’d survived being shot down and attacked by criminals, only to be shot down in a commercial aircraft.

There wasn’t time to panic. There wasn’t time to do much of anything. I found my hands going to my seat restraints, tightening them, even as I heard the skimmer pilot come on over the intercom, “Brace for landing, brace for landing,” his voice sounded abnormally calm and some absent part of my brain wondered if he was a graduate of the Century Military Academy.

The remaining engine roared as the pilot fed it power. The skimmer stabilized and the nose swung up. I watched the spinning sky and sand transition to mostly sand and some sky. This side of the aircraft was lower, the damaged engine providing little or no lift. The sandy, rocky ground whipped past, far too fast for me to pick out details and far too close for me to focus on it.

We hit, a bone-jarring, grating, sliding, and world-ending chaos. Passengers and their possessions flew through the compartment. Something heavy struck me a glancing blow to the head and I saw stars. I saw the skimmer engine ripped away and then a moment later we smashed, hard, into something and the entire craft jerked to a halt.

I unbuckled my restraints and stood. Passengers looked around dazedly. An attendant fumbled with one of the doors up front, but I didn’t see the attendant here near the rear. I pushed past my seat-mate and moved to the door, moving on impulse. The skimmer was damaged, the hydrogen tanks were probably leaking. We had to get off the craft before the hydrogen caught fire or exploded.

I wrenched the door open and the smart-plastic ramp extended. I started to jump down it, but then I saw that no one was following me. I stared at the passengers, most of whom were either in shock or possibly denial. “Move it!” I shouted, “Get out of here!”

I reached over, popped the restraints off a nearby woman and jerked her to her feet. Without thinking I pushed her down the ramp, then grabbed the man next to her. “Go!”

Passengers started to move. Some fumbled with their restraints and I hurried to help them, pushing them towards the door. I didn’t want to think about how little time we had. Hydrogen gas would be spreading through the aircraft. All it would take would be a spark and the entire skimmer would go up like a bomb.

“Go!” I shouted, shoving a business-man ahead of me. I looked around, not seeing anyone else near the rear of the aircraft. I started towards the door when I heard a whimper of pain. I looked over and saw movement under a pile of bags. I reached down, throwing stuff out of the way and found an arm. I pulled, dragging the attendant out from under the pile. She was battered and bloodied, her eyes unfocused. “Let’s go!” I shouted, pushing her towards the door. We ran out, sliding down the ramp and then plowing into a group of passengers milling around the bottom of the ramp. “Get clear!” I shouted at them. “It’s going to catch fire!”

I pushed and shoved at people, even as I heard a whoosh. The sound turned into a roar and I felt a wash of heat, even as I stumbled away. The dusk turned bright as daylight and I looked back to see the entire aircraft engulfed in flames. “Go!” I shouted angrily at people as they stopped to gawk.

We weren’t anywhere near a safe distance away. I helped an attendant to herd people away from the crash site and the roaring flames. We’d managed to get two hundred meters away when the hydrogen tank exploded like a bomb. As the blast knocked me to the ground, I finally gave up and just stayed down. A moment later another hydrogen tank detonated, then the third.

I lay on the ground, listening to the roaring flames and the panicked shouts of the people around me. Someone shot at me… again. There was no reason that I thought of myself as the target, but somehow I knew that I must be. Someone had fired a missile at me. They’d nearly killed dozens of people… trying to kill me.

As I lay on the hard, hot ground, I had a dread certainty that they wouldn’t stop until they succeeded.

***

Ghost Star Snippet Four

Here’s the fourth snippet for Ghost Star.  You can find the first three snippets (one, two, three).  Ghost Star comes out at the end of the week (September 1st).

June 10th, 2410

124R36 System

Unclaimed Space

 

Aromata Atagi grinned as the four destroyers emerged from shadow space dead in the middle of his ambush. Engage, he sent and as one, the five frigates of his squadron opened fire.

Each of the frigates were substantially smaller than the three destroyers they faced, but at close range and with the element of surprise, that didn’t matter much. Thirty mass driver rounds smashed into the lead pair of destroyers, an overwhelming barrage against foes who had no idea that they were even under attack.

The frigates had angling shots above and below the belly-bands of the destroyers’ defense screens. Armor shattered and engine pods detonated under the salvo of tungsten-tipped depleted uranium rounds. Yet both ships went to battle stations, radar lashing out, weapons systems coming online and flailing blindly in an attempt to suppress the incoming fire.

Second salvo, Aromata commanded. These enemy ships were immaterial, but they needed to be removed so that he could hit his true target. His lieutenants replied, even as they volleyed another thirty mass drivers into the two lead ships.

One of the two destroyers broke in half, its midships shattered, all systems offline. The other was a powerless hulk, venting its hydrogen fuel and atmosphere from massive rents in its hull.

But in the time it took those two destroyers to die, they bought the next pair of ships time to get their systems online, time to search for the killers of their brethren… and Aromata’s smile faded a bit as he sensed that the fight had shifted.

Flank them, he commanded, and his five frigates surged forward, single firing pass. He didn’t need to give them more detail than that. His commanders knew how to move in coordination, they’d conducted raids similar to this one dozens, even hundreds, of times together. They had the initiative to move and maneuver, they knew their orders… and they knew why this one mission was different and why it was very important that they follow his direction perfectly… even if it meant that some of them might not survive.

Aromata’s frigate went high, while the other four split into pairs that swung low, firing their mass drivers from knife range, all four focusing fire on the third destroyer. Aromata, however, had a different target.

He took over weapons, reaching out with his psychic senses as he did so, feeling for the exact position of the Defiance-class destroyer… and it’s very important passenger. There you are, he thought, even as he aimed his frigate’s mass drivers, taking the time to line up the shot perfectly.

The frigate’s single turret fired, three mass driver rounds lanced out, too close to dodge, and smashed through the side armor of the fourth destroyer. The ship shuddered, but power stayed online and both its engine pods remained intact. That ship was Reese’s flag ship, and Aromata Atagi’s shot had just destroyed the vessel’s shadow space drive.

Reese Leone’s destroyer continued to spit mass driver rounds in reply and Aromata’s frigate shuddered under multiple impacts, glancing blows, but still enough that alarms wailed through the bridge. He saw that the third destroyer was crippled, the vessel yawing over, still returning fire, but spinning like a dying beast.

Mission accomplished, Aromata sent, withdraw.

All five of his frigates had sustained damage, two of them severely, but they retained their shadow space drives. They’d already plotted their escape routes and they jumped to shadow, leaving the wounded and crippled destroyers behind.

It would look like they’d been driven off, like a pirate ambush that had expected merchant ships rather than a military force. That is what Reese and his master need to believe, Aromata told himself. The five frigates he’d used had been taken from pirates, their systems cobbled together, wholly unworthy of the name of warships.

Every bit of evidence would suggest that Reese Leone had run into a pirate ambush by sheer bad luck. The damage to his surviving vessels would require him to make a stop at Formosa Station to either repair or transfer to another ship. Someone would recognize him, someone would talk.

And from there, it would merely be a matter of making certain that the other game pieces were set in motion. Five pirate frigates had just set in motion the downfall of all of Reese’s efforts. Aromata’s smile grew broad as he considered that. His master would be very pleased and Aromata knew that would translate to better rewards… and a better chance at overall victory. After all, while some Shadow Lords favored overwhelming force, Aromata’s master appreciated a more subtle hand.

Shadow Lord Invictus manipulated from behind the scenes, his focus always upon greater victory.

***

 

June 12, 2410

Formosa Station, 124R36 System

Unclaimed Space

 

Ricky One-Eye scratched at his bald head. The rash that had made all his hair fall out hadn’t gone away, despite the various drugs he’d stolen from the pharmacy. Nor had he been able to regain much of the weight he’d lost while living on garbage and rats in Yaitsik Station’s waste system. At least he didn’t match any of the wanted posters that had popped up for his capture across civilized space.

“Look,” he said in as ingratiating a tone as he could manage, “all I’m trying to do is get back home to see my ailing mother.” He gave a friendly smile, even as he scanned the bar for any potential bounty hunters or law enforcement.

“You look disease ridden,” the freighter’s owner growled. The captain had the only ship going out towards the periphery and he’d been pretty hard to talk around into letting Ricky aboard. Then again, since Ricky planned to murder the man and seize his ship if given the chance, that was probably wise of him.

Ricky’s smile wavered, “Well, you look…”

He trailed off as he recognized the man over the freighter captain’s shoulder, just walking out of the bar. “I understand, entirely, thanks for your time,” Ricky said absently as he rose from the table. He had to have been mistaken, there was no way that he’d seen right. He rubbed at his one good eye and then blinked disbelievingly at the retreating figure.

Ricky stepped out into the station’s corridors, he found his target and followed the man. There was no mistaking the blonde hair or the set of his shoulders. As Reese Leone paused in outside a docking port and looked over his shoulder, Ricky had to rub his one good eye in disbelief. Yet there was no mistaking him. The man sported an impressive set of scars across his face and head, but the shape of his jaw, the blue eyes, and the rest of him was unmistakable.   But… by all reports, Reese Leone was dead. Everyone was talking about that, and Ricky had consoled himself in the fact that the same navy boys that had ruined him had killed Reese not long afterward.

That son of a bitch, Ricky thought to himself. His hand fell to where his pistol should have rested, but then the pirate remembered that he’d had to leave his stolen weapons behind when he boarded the last transport. Ricky knew a guy on the station who could have got him a weapon, but that would have risked the criminal turning him in. After all, last time he’d been here at Formosa Station, Ricky had shorted the fence.

Ricky didn’t want to risk fighting Reese hand to hand. Besides, there was no profit in revenge.

But there might be profit in reporting the man’s survival. Ricky gave a wicked grin as he thought about that. If this was Reese and if his many enemies still wanted him dead, then finding out more about his presence here at Formosa Station could be very, very valuable.

Ricky ducked his head and moved past the man, but he stopped a short distance away and pretended to consult a station map. Soon enough, another man joined Reese at the docking collar. “You’ve made the arrangements?” Reese asked.

“Yes, sir,” the subordinate replied, “we’ve uploaded the coordinates to the rendezvous and we’ve completed our repairs. The Lord Admiral says that our replacement escort will meet us and provide us with the final coordinates to Golgotha.” Ricky nearly choked at those words. Golgotha, he thought to himself, that’s impossible, the place is just a myth…

He’d become so distracted that he missed whatever Reese said in reply. Reese’s underling went on, “Yes, sir, we’ll get them aboard immediately. The rest of the cargo has been loaded, would you like for me to lead you to your suite?”

“No, thank you,” Reese said. “I know the way. Please see to our other guests.” The man turned and scanned the crowd and Ricky felt sweat bead his brow as Reese’s blue eyes settled on him.

Ricky pawed at the map, as if he were tracing a route. He kept his gaze locked forward, even as he watched the renegade military officer out of the corner of his eyes. After a moment, Reese turned back and walked past the guards and onto the ship.

Ricky swallowed nervously. The news of Reese’s survival would be invaluable… but he didn’t have any proof. No one would believe him, especially not with a bogus destination like Golgotha. The place was a myth, a rumored system filled with alien ruins and a “ghost” star that was too dim to see with the unaided eye. It was legendary, a place of fabulous treasures… and a place where so many treasure hunters had reputedly died that Amalgamated Worlds had erased the location from the star charts.

There had to be some way to turn this information to his use, Ricky decided. Even if most people wouldn’t believe his story, there was bound to be someone desperate enough to do so. Ricky would find that person and he’d milk the information for everything it was worth.

***

Ghost Star Snippet Three

Here is snippet three for Ghost Star.  If you missed Snippet one or two, you can find them here and here.  Ghost Star will be available on September 1st.

June 5, 2410

Saariskella Colony, Ottokar System

Colonial Republic

 

Colonel Price propped his feet up and enjoyed the warm fire as he sipped at his whisky. He stared at the old-fashioned paper book in his lap without really seeing it. Officially, Commander Bowder had requested leave after the Battle of Kapteyn’s Star. Unofficially, he’d mentioned he was thinking about retiring, too sick of death and war to take it much longer.

He’d slipped any potential observers and left a trail that would indicate that Commander Bowder might have taken his own life… should he fail to return.

Colonel Price had shaken off the false identity, donned a different one, and boarded a transport here. Saariskella was a cold, damp world, renowned for its skiing and for its secluded hunting lodges. The colonists eked out a living by catering to tourists and hunters. Since most people wore heavy coats with goggles and hoods, it was also a good world for doing business anonymously.

He looked up at a knock on the door. His hand settled to the Sako TR-7 in his lap, underneath his book, “Come in.” It wasn’t the only bit of protection he had. There was an entire security team, men he’d trained himself, along the perimeter, ready to take down any potential attackers.

The door opened and a man stomped inside, shaking snow off and throwing back his hood. “Colonel Price,” Admiral Collae said, his stony face harsh in the light from the fire. “I see you’re interested in my offer after all?”

“Well, I’m willing to listen to what you have to say,” Colonel Price replied. “After all, things happened mostly as you predicted back at Kapteyn’s Star. Though I will admit the bit with Princess Giovanni being killed was something of a surprise.”

Admiral Collae gave a narrow smile, “Yes. Some things are best as surprises. I have an associate coming soon who’ll put your mind at ease about some of our other plans, but in the meantime, I wanted to know if your facility, the antimatter production one… is it secure?”

“Very secure,” Colonel Price said. “It’s located in deep space, only the people there and myself know the coordinates.” He gave a wolfish grin, “The crews of supply ships I charter tend to be unhappy when they realize how I keep it that way.”

Admiral Collae nodded, “Excellent. My organization is in need of a secure base of operations with a massive power output. I think your organization could help us out.”

“I’ll assume you aren’t talking about the CRAN?” Colonel Price asked. Admiral Collae probably hadn’t lured him all the way out here just to murder him and try to take his resources… but that didn’t mean Colonel Price was going to drop his guard.

“No,” Admiral Collae snorted, “I’m not.”

There was a knock at the door, but Colonel Price didn’t jump. His security team had already alerted him to the second guest. “Come on in,” he said.

The second guest came in and then put back his hood and pulled off his goggles, “Cold out there,” he said with an easy, boyish smile. The horribly disfiguring scars marred that smile, somewhat, but Colonel Price wasn’t bothered by scars. “Couldn’t we meet somewhere nice, like a beach?”

Colonel Price recognized Reese Leone. He felt a real spurt of surprise as he saw him, though. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

“So are you, Colonel Price,” Reese smiled broadly. “And like you, I’ve found death to be remarkably… liberating.” He gestured at a chair, “May I sit?”

Colonel Price nodded slowly. He contemplated Reese’s presence, combined with Admiral Collae’s presence. Admiral Collae’s people didn’t just seize his transports, Colonel Price mused, he evacuated Reese, all of us none the wiser. That meant that the attempt to board the Enforcer Platform had been another ruse. He felt oddly relieved that the end goal hadn’t been the alien station.

“So,” Reese said, taking a seat in the chair and then leaning forward, elbows on his knees, his blue eyes flickering with odd reflections of the fire. “Colonel Price, tell me about this station of yours. I need to know exactly how much power you can produce.”

***

Ghost Star Snippet Two

If you haven’t read snippet one, you can find it here.  Ghost Star goes live on September 1st.  Here’s snippet two of Ghost Star:

“I can’t believe you stole a ship!” Rory shook his head, looking between Lieutenant Medica and Forrest Perkins. “There should be a law against that, right?”

“Several,” Feliks nodded, “especially for interrupting our work.”

“Explain to me again, why exactly you’re aboard?” Forrest asked rubbing his face tiredly.

“I already told your jack-booted accomplices!” Rory protested. “We’re calibrating some sensitive equipment…”

What equipment?!” Forrest demanded.

“Uh,” Rory looked at Feliks, “I don’t think we’re authorized to tell you.” Yet the expression of the short, overweight man was one of worry. He looked as if he were afraid that they might find something out.

“Your schedule didn’t show you here,” Forrest mused aloud. “You were aboard the ship at two in the morning, standard time. You had no assistants, nothing was scheduled…” His eyes went narrow, “You were doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing, weren’t you?”

“How does he know that?” Rory waved at Feliks, “He’s not supposed to be smart enough to know that!”

“I don’t have to tell you anything,” Feliks muttered.

“Right!” Rory nodded and raised a fist, “We don’t have to tell you anything! You’re the criminals, here! We won’t be bullied!”

“Setting aside some issues with that,” Forrest said. “If you assume that we are criminals…. what is to stop us from venting you out an airlock if you don’t tell us what we want to know?”

“You wouldn’t,” Rory’s eyes went big. He looked over at Lieutenant Medica for support, but the engineering officer folded his arms and scowled. From what Forrest had heard, the Lieutenant had plenty of pent up irritation with the two men.

“Corporal Wicklund,” Forrest pressed a button on the arm of the command chair, “Please ready your ship’s suit and come up to the bridge. There’s a little detail I have for you to take care of.”

“Okay, okay!” Rory sputtered. “It’s not really that big of a secret. It’s just that, well, Feliks and I got a message from one of our friends, working for General Shaden.”

“She’s not really a friend,” Feliks commented. “Rory thinks she’s cute.”

“She is cute,” Rory snapped. “And she was bragging about how they’ve made adjustments to their ship’s drives that lets psychics screen the vessel’s signatures, sort of a psionic screen that makes it harder for the Balor to target them…”

“And?” Forrest asked.

“Well, it got Feliks and I to wondering if this ship’s active stealth system might do something similar, if those mystery aliens we’ve encountered might have telepathic abilities, which was why they weren’t able to see this ship at all.”

“Yes,” Feliks nodded, and blinked, his eyes big behind his thick glasses. “After you fired on the enemy ship, it should have been able to track your weapons fire back and engage you, but it didn’t.”

“I know that,” Forrest said, “I assumed their active sensors just weren’t good enough to pick us up, even at that range.”

“No, see that doesn’t make any sense, not after what we’ve seen of their other capabilities!” Rory protested. “Look, their weapons fire is extremely accurate, their systems, despite being made with human components, are at least a generation ahead of anything we can make. We’ve gone under the assumption that their radar systems, based off the emissions we’ve seen, are just very sophisticated, which aids their accuracy. But what if that’s not the case at all? What if their radar emissions are just a spoof, so that we don’t realize they’re psionic?”

Forrest frowned, “Why would they do that?”

Feliks and Rory looked at one another, “Seriously, he’s this dense? No wonder he got captured…” Forrest felt a spike of rage as they made light of the ambush that had killed his last command and over a hundred of his crew.

“Explain,” Forrest snapped, “now.”

Fine,” Rory rolled his eyes. “Look, we’ve assumed until now that any kind of ansible interception must be done through some technological means. But that’s impossible.”

“Highly improbable,” Feliks interrupted.

“Yes, well, it would be like intercepting a single photon in a star system and determining its energy state without preventing it from reaching its destination, only far, far harder,” Rory said. “These are transmissions beamed through shadow space. To intercept them, either you’d need machinery that senses things through shadow space and can detect, intercept, and re-transmit communications faster than real-time or…”

“Or you would need someone capable of sensing things in shadow space without altering the state of whatever they’re sensing,” Feliks finished. “Which would imply a psychic ability, as yet never-before-seen. Which these aliens might be capable of… and if they can do that, then they could also possess other psionic abilities, such as senses powerful enough to use to target enemy ships.”

Forrest sat back in his command chair. “That’s… that’s an interesting assumption.”

“Yes. It would suggest that the active emissions we’ve picked up from their vessels are a further byproduct of their low-shielded reactors rather than being active sensors. So we were studying the ship’s stealth systems and comparing it to the stealth systems aboard one of the modified combat shuttles the Dreyfus Mutineers possessed, to see if we could detect the modification and what frequencies it might operate upon.”

That explains the combat shuttle docked in our internal launch bay. There hadn’t been any such craft aboard when Forrest had stolen the vessel from Marius Giovanni. “Well?” Forrest asked.

Rory looked at Feliks. Neither spoke for a long moment, “Well, our results are as yet inconclusive, however, we estimate a thirty percent–”

“Ten percent at most,” Feliks muttered.

“Really, that low?” Rory asked. He pursed his lips, “Well, a twenty percent possibility that the modifications performed on this vessel by the people you hijacked it from the first time, were designed to screen it from psionic senses… and that they were done by the people who captured you… the people who planned to use the ship against these unknown aliens before you stole it.”

“What’s the other eighty percent chance?” Lieutenant Medica asked.

“Oh, uh,” Rory looked at Feliks, who shrugged, “That’s the likelihood that they didn’t understand the systems well enough and that their modifications didn’t work as intended. Either way, it has the same result. We think this ship would be completely invisible to any psychic senses. It would be like it didn’t exist!”

“It isn’t perfect,” Feliks interjected. “There will be ways that a psychic could locate it if they knew it was present, but it is still an unprecedented achievement.”

“Okay,” Forrest mused, “so they modified this ship and now those mystery aliens can’t see it and it is still very hard to detect to almost everyone else…” He looked at Lieutenant Medica. This didn’t really change much, if anything.   “Can we dump them at Formosa Station?”

The engineering officer scowled at the two scientists. “I’m not sure they’d survive.”

Rory’s back went straight, “I’ll have you know that I can take care of myself–”

“Formosa Station,” Forrest interrupted, “is an independent station sometimes frequented by pirates and slavers. I’m assuming you have no hard currency on you?”

As Rory and Feliks shook their heads, Forrest sighed, “We have some, but probably not enough to buy you passage back to the United Colonies. Certainly not enough to pay for passage on a trustworthy vessel. An untrustworthy captain might sell you into slavery… or just steal everything you own and dump you out an airlock.”

“Uh, maybe we should stay aboard the ship,” Rory looked over at Feliks.

“That seems to be the better option,” Feliks nodded.

“We don’t have enough people aboard to babysit you,” Lieutenant Medica growled. Forrest winced at the reminder. They had ten people to operate the destroyer. Normally that would have made the task impossible. However, the Widowmaker was heavily automated, so the skeleton crew could manage, if only barely. At least, until serious maintenance issues came due, anyway. Lieutenant Medica went on after a moment, “We can’t afford to have you getting in the way at the last minute and getting us all killed.”

“We can be helpful!” Rory protested. “We’ve been studying the ship’s systems, we know far more about the stealth systems and how they interact with the rest of the vessel’s systems than you could have learned in your time aboard.”

Forrest pursed his lips, “Fine, it isn’t as if we have many options. You stay aboard… but if you get in the way, or if Lieutenant Medica says you’re a nuisance or risk, we’ll drop you at the first port.” In reality, he knew the two men were too valuable to risk them, but he didn’t have many options. Hopefully they’d stay out of the way and be somewhat useful. Forrest almost wanted to turn around and drop them off in United Colonies territory, but there was too much risk that word would have gone out about the theft of the ship.

“Of course,” Rory nodded, “We’ll be very helpful, not a worry at all… uh, by the way, why are we going to this pirate station?”

“There’s a rumor that some of Marius Giovanni’s people might resupply at the station,” Forrest said. “And we’re trying to track them down.”

“Wait,” Rory looked at Feliks, “isn’t that the guy…”

“Yes,” Feliks nodded, “he’s related to the new Nova Roman Emperor, correct?”

“He’s Emperor Lucius Giovanni’s father… or a clone of his father, anyway,” Forrest shrugged. “More importantly to our business, he’s the father of Alannis Giovanni, and for that reason I’m hoping that she’s still alive.”

“I’m confused,” Rory said. “We saw the footage, the shuttle she was aboard was destroyed at Kapteyn’s Star. I don’t see how it would be possible for her to have survived.”

“There’s a chance,” Lieutenant Medica said, “that she’s still alive. The Skipper thinks it wasn’t really her aboard the shuttle.”

“Why on Earth…” Rory shook his head, “What logical reason would you have to think that? I mean, Reese Leone wanted to take control of the Enforcer Platform. We have transmissions from him as he tried to dock with the station. We searched the planet below. All his people said he was aboard the shuttle along with Princess Giovanni. What evidence do you have to prove otherwise?”

“Little things,” Forrest snapped. It felt good to speak about it to someone who wasn’t inclined to believe him. The intelligence branch people he’d briefed had looked at him like he was crazy. The nine members of his former crew who he’d talked into helping him were already loyal to him, they trusted his judgment. Rory and Feliks were about as impartial as he could expect anyone to be. “She didn’t address me by my first name, she and Reese didn’t bring up my relationship with her, just… little things.”

“Wait, you were in a relationship with the princess?” Rory demanded. He shook his head, “Great… this is about a girl. He stole a unique, irreplaceable, and priceless, warship because of a girl.”

“Women,” Feliks nodded somberly.   “Women ruin everything.”

***

See Kal at Myths and Legends Con in Denver

I’ll be at Myths and Legends Con this weekend.  Here’s my schedule.  I’ll also have a table so you can meet me there outside of my panels.  Saturday is my main day.

Myths and Legends Con is one of my favorite Denver conventions because it’s a smaller, more personable place.  There’s lots of time to talk with authors and panelists, and it’s probably the best run convention in Denver (maybe even Colorado!)

See my panels below:

Sat, 1:00 PM-1:50 PM, Writing Combat in Science Fiction & Fantasy(Room of Requirement)
Sat, 2:00 PM-2:50 PM, Sympathetic Villains (Serenity)
Sat, 4:00 PM-4:50 PM, Trope if You Want To (The Shire)
Sat, 5:00 PM-5:50 PM, Discussing Combat in Science Fiction & Fantasy (Room of Requirement)
Sat, 8:00 PM-8:50 PM, The Muse and the Devil (The Shire)
Sat, 9:00 PM-9:50 PM, The Price of Magic (Serenity)

Hope to see some folks there!