Forge of the Titans

Forge of the Titans

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by Steve White

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Long Ago the Gods Left Earth, but Now They are Returning-and Some of Them are Not at All Friendly. Space Adventure by the Co-Author of the New York Times Bestseller The Shiva Option.

When Derek Secrest was suddenly pulled out of the Naval Academy to take part in a top secret government project involving telepathy-because tests showed that he had a

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Long Ago the Gods Left Earth, but Now They are Returning-and Some of Them are Not at All Friendly. Space Adventure by the Co-Author of the New York Times Bestseller The Shiva Option.

When Derek Secrest was suddenly pulled out of the Naval Academy to take part in a top secret government project involving telepathy-because tests showed that he had a strong latent talent for psi powers-he thought things couldn't get more weird. He was wrong. Soon he was contacted by a mysterious woman who could open portals at will through spacetime. Her powers seemed godlike, and they were. Millennia ago, extra-dimensional beings with great powers had come to earth and taken on human form, to be later remembered in legends as gods and goddesses-and titans, the ancient enemies of the gods. The godlike beings had driven off the titans, but now they are returning, with a new plan to use humans with psionic abilities to rule the Earth, and not be driven from it this time. And the titans always did have a fondness for human sacrifice and other anti-social activities. Unless Derek and a handful of other telepaths can join forces with the ancient gods to defeat the titans, the world will be plunged into a new dark age of terror and death. But, judging from mythology, just how much can you really trust a god. . . ?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this refreshingly different science fantasy by White (Eagle Against the Stars), Naval Aviation Officer Candidate Derek Secrest is distressed to be pulled away from flight training to undergo testing by a top-secret government organization. When the testing reveals he's a natural telepath, his entire world is turned upside down. An attempt to use his powers to interdict a terrorist plot succeeds, but the plot's masterminds prove to be survivors of Greece's Heroic Age, who not only possess technology superior to our own but also wield magic derived from mass human sacrifices. In addition, they're in league with the malevolent beings known to us through myth as the Titans. Derek and his telepathic friends join the opposition, including the gods of Olympus, who are themselves shaken by the discovery that psionic humans possess abilities beyond both god and magician. The basic plot device-that of evil alien gods who once possessed our world trying to regain a foothold-suggests a Lovecraftian horror, but beyond some lip service about the intradimensional realms controlled by the Titans inducing madness, there's an optimism, if not a teleological evangelism, about humans' place in the cosmos that recalls the best of the John Campbell era of SF. White's core audience of hard SF fans will be pleased, as will fantasy readers who enjoy convincing explanations of how such things as magic and psi powers work. (June) FYI: White is the co-author with David Weber of last year's bestseller The Shiva Option. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Forge of the Titans

By Steve White

Baen Books

ISBN: 0-7434-3611-3

Chapter One

In Virginia, summer is the only reliable season: you know it's going to be hot and humid.

Otherwise ... well, Derek Secrest's boyhood recollections of winter included Christmas days outdoors in shirtsleeves, but also of freezing his butt off shoveling two feet of blizzard out from around his dad's car in latitudes where you weren't supposed to need a garage except perhaps as a glorified tool shed. Likewise, spring and autumn could be a damp misery of drizzly chill that lent the tourist ads every quality of a joke except humor.

But sometimes those ads told the truth-and less than the truth. Autumn really could fulfill all the promise of Indian summer for a few days when old memories crowded around and you wanted time to stand still. And spring, at its best, seemed to justify the universe by sheer, throat-hurting beauty.

Today was that kind of day: past the full glory of azaleas and dogwoods, for this was mid-May, but still partaking of that fragile, fleeting perfection.

So, wondered Derek with twenty-two-year-old impatience, what the hell am I doing indoors? He knew the official answer, the reason they'd given him when he'd been ordered up here from Pensacola: research. It told him precisely nothing. As far as he could see, the only research he was doing was determining experimentally whether it was possible to be literally bored to death.

Cruelly, he could even glimpse the gorgeous day through the window of the waiting room where he sat-and sat, and sat-with an assortment of other uniformed people. It would have been a lovely view if he'd been in the mood to appreciate it. Not all of the northern Virginia landscape had vanished under endless rows of gratuitously undistinguished townhouses containing government employees who hadn't yet stolen enough of the taxpayers' money to afford something more pretentious. And this installation, to which he'd been bused after landing at Andrews Air Force Base across the Potomac, was pretty out of the way. In fact, he wasn't clear on just exactly where it was-and this was not unfamiliar territory to him. Curious.

Actually, there was a lot that was curious about this whole business. Naval Aviation Officer Candidates like himself were used to participating in experiments on a voluntary basis-really voluntary, for there was never any shortage of volunteers. Why should there be? As long as you were sitting at a keyboard performing some routine task as fast as you could while occasionally being stung by a harmless but irritating electric shock, or doing something else equally idiotic, you at least weren't getting yelled at by your drill instructor.

This time, though, they hadn't asked for volunteers....

The outside door of the waiting room opened, derailing Derek's train of thought. He had to fight his impulse to stand up and come to attention, for the man who entered wore Navy short-sleeved whites like himself-but with the two gold stripes of a full lieutenant on his shoulder boards, rather than the tiny gold anchor that adorned Derek's. You're not at Pensacola, dummy! he reminded himself. And this guy doesn't work for Training Command.

The lieutenant looked around, saw an empty chair beside Derek, and walked over. "This seat taken?" he asked in a vaguely Gulf Coast-accented baritone.

Again, Derek had to restrain his leg muscles from propelling him up out of his chair. "Oh no, sir!"

The lieutenant gave a lazy smile as he eased himself down. "Hey, relax, Candidate! I'm not here to dick you over."

Derek really did relax. The lieutenant's smile had that effect. He even found himself able to look past the rank insignia at individual details.

The lieutenant's name tag read "Rinnard." He wore pilot's wings on his left breast above a row and a half of ribbons. (Derek grew painfully aware that he wore only the red-and-yellow ribbon of the National Defense Medal-the "walk-and-talk ribbon.") Normally, those golden wings would have inspired an awe that transcended even their wearer's exalted-to an NAOC, anyway-rank. But Derek found himself looking beyond even that, and wondering why he did.

Granted, the lieutenant was tall, well-built, and handsome in a dark swashbuckling way. But there was something beyond looks-something hard to define. It probably had to do with that smile. But, for whatever reason, the lieutenant oozed a quality that drew every eye in a room as surely as though by magnetism or gravity. Maybe it was what people meant when they spoke of "charisma."

Lieutenant Rinnard had evidently been studying him as well. "You must be just back from Tyndall." He indicated the four tiny gold bars above Derek's name tag. "Congratulations."

This guy had been through Pensacola-that much would have been clear even without the evidence of his pilot's wings. He knew Derek had completed land survival training at Tyndall Air Force Base, north of Panama City, and thereby cleared the last real hurdle before commissioning. He also knew what the four little gold bars meant: Derek was of above-average "candidate officer" rank in his last week in NAOCS, just barely below the godlike level of the Marine drill instructors in the terrorized eyes of the "poopies," as the new arrivals in the hell of Indoctrination Battalion were called.

"Uh, thank you, sir. Yes, but ..." Military propriety struggled with the urge to blurt out the confidences that this man seemed to invite. "Yes, only I'm ... that is ..."

"Only you're here instead, and missing your chance to dump on the poopies like you got dumped on," the lieutenant finished for him sympathetically.

"Yes, sir. And also missing the chance to graduate with my class." There, he'd said it. He wasn't sure this hotshot would understand. He wasn't sure he understood it himself. Sergeant McManus is a sadistic, semi-literate redneck, he thought savagely. So why does it mean so much to me to be able to march out of that hall with Class 22-14, wearing ensign's shoulder boards, and have him standing there at the foot of the steps, and take my first-ever salute from him? But the lieutenant did understand. "Well ain't that a shit sandwich? You'll have to get commissioned with a later class. You must have been ordered here like me."

Derek emerged from his self-pity into an embarrassed awareness that he might, just possibly, not be the only one here against his will. "Yes, sir. I wasn't told anything about it. Does the lieutenant know-?"

"Lighten up! You're not at Pensacola!" The same inhibitions-dissolving smile flashed.

"Uh, no, sir, I'm not." Derek swallowed before pronouncing the forbidden pronoun. "Do you know what's going on here?"

"Haven't a clue. I was aboard Reagan, off Rosie Roads for an operational readiness exercise, when I got my orders. Even the skipper of my squadron-that's VF 98-said he didn't know what it was all about. And I believe him. He was ricocheting off the walls at losing one of his pilots just before an OPREDEX."

Derek's jaw dropped. VF 98 was one of the first squadrons to have gotten the new advanced two-seat fighter, just arriving in the fleet to replace the obsolescent F/A-18F. "So you fly the F-39, sir?" he asked in awe.

"Yep. Is that what you want to pilot?"

Derek's ardor slumped a little. "Actually, sir, I'm in flight officer training. My eyesight-"

"-Isn't quite absolutely perfect," the lieutenant finished for him.

"Twenty-forty in one eye," Derek confirmed ruefully. "But I do want to be a radar intercept operator in F-39s."

"Listen, we need RIOs just as much as we need pilots. Mine's a damned good man. I only hope the Ops officer will be able to schedule some flight time for him while I'm here doing whatever it is we're doing. Oh, by the way, I'm Paul Rinnard." The lieutenant extended his hand.

Derek took the proffered hand gingerly. "Derek Secrest, sir."

"Anyway, I don't think it's just a coincidence that my orders came just a few weeks after we were given those new tests-you know, with the weird helmet gizmo they put over your head, and the pills that make you feel woozy the rest of the day."

"But I thought that was just part of the induction physical at Pensacola."

"Nope. Word is that everybody in the fleet has been getting it. And, I suppose, not just the fleet." Rinnard indicated the rainbow of uniforms in the waiting room.

The inner door opened, and a harried-looking Air Force technical sergeant emerged, consulting a clipboard. "All right, you're next...." He looked slightly askance at Derek's shoulder boards. "Er, Midshipman Secrest."

Derek gritted his teeth at the common but mortifying error. Midshipman indeed! He remembered when they'd brought some fourth-year Naval Academy pukes-they were undergraduates, for God's sake!-through Pensacola for aviation orientation. He'd personally taken great satisfaction in running their supercilious butts into the sand on the cross-country course.

But the tech sergeant was-for another week, at least-his senior by one grade, and he just had to take it. "Here," he mumbled, getting to his feet.

Lieutenant Rinnard looked up slowly. "That's Candidate Secrest, Airman," he corrected in a very quiet, very smooth voice-a voice which held something below the level of sound, something of which everyone in earshot was conscious, judging from all the raised heads.

Sweat popped out on the tech sergeant's brow. "Ah ... that is ... of course, sir. This way, if you please, sir."

It took a heartbeat for Derek to realize that the second "sir" had been addressed to him. He gave Rinnard a look that held something more than mere gratitude, then followed the tech sergeant through the door.

* * *

Derek didn't waste his breath kvetching about his presence here to the severe late-middle-aged woman in the white lab coat, whose office name-plate read Rosa Kronenberg, M.D., Ph.D. She was a civilian, and would never understand.

"First of all, Mister Secrest," she began, surprising him with a correct form of address, "I must emphasize to you that everything you are going to see or hear in this installation is classified Top Secret."

Hope flared in Derek. As an NAOC, he wasn't cleared for Top Secret. "Actually, ma'am, there seems to have been some mistake. I'm not-"

"Yes, you are." Kronenberg slid a paper across the desk. It looked impressively official. "You would have been ordered here sooner, but the background investigation took a little while."

Derek's curiosity would no longer be denied. "Ma'am, may I ask what this installation is, and why I'm here?"

"No, you may not. That's on a need-to-know basis, and all you need to know is that you're under orders to cooperate to the fullest with certain tests that will be administered over the next few days. If necessary, I can bring in a senior Navy officer to give you those orders verbally. But I don't think that will be necessary. Do you?"

"No, ma'am." Derek decided he didn't like Doctor Kronenberg very much. And her "next few days" language was a stake through the heart of his last hopes of rejoining Class 22-14.

"The tests," Doctor Kronenberg resumed, "will be harmless and painless, although I can't promise a total absence of discomfort. And now I'll turn you over to an orderly who'll conduct you to your quarters-you'll be sharing a bunkroom with three others. The personal effects you brought are already there. You won't need your uniforms, though; you'll be issued clothing. Report back here at 0800 tomorrow morning. We may be seeing each other again from time to time during the tests."

Be still, my beating heart! Derek consoled himself with the mental sarcasm as he took his leave of Doctor Kronenberg. She'd clearly dismissed him from her mind already, turning her attention to a sheet of hardcopy which doubtless concerned her next laboratory specimen.

* * *

Afterwards, Derek found he had no clear recollection of the days that followed.

In some ways, it wasn't as bad as he'd feared. His schedule wasn't particularly frantic, if only because of the logjam of people being processed through this fairly half-assed installation-it reeked of new construction, and his bunkroom was like Indoctrination Battalion revisited save for the lack of full-bag inspections. But his free time was so excruciatingly boring that he found himself welcoming the summons to more tests.

At least at first ...

A lot of it was the same sort of thing he'd gotten at Pensacola, only more so. But the drugs were different, or maybe there were just more of them. At any rate, his sense of time became disjointed. He didn't like that. And he didn't like the dreams ... especially because he wasn't always sure whether he'd been asleep or awake when he'd dreamed them. Besides, they weren't like normal dreams.

At first, he had trouble putting his finger on what it was that made them different. Then it finally came to him. Most dreams-even the scary ones and the far worse ones that make one feel unclean for having dreamed them-have a certain basic familiarity. One knows where they come from, however little one may want to know. But these were intruders. Not necessarily bad. Just ... alien.

These thoughts occupied his mind in the intervals between tests when he was certain he was awake. There was little else to occupy it. He began to suspect that the installation's drabness went beyond the military norm-that it was intentional, designed to reduce extraneous sensory stimulation to the absolute minimum. If so, its designers could congratulate themselves on a complete success. Just about the only distractions were his fellow test subjects.

Not that they were all that distracting. In fact the standard-issue clothes made them, too, as nondescript as possible. He'd hoped to run into Paul Rinnard, but was only able to exchange a single brief wave with the fighter jock across a room. He barely saw his three roommates-their schedules were too different, for the tests were carried out with scant regard for day and night. Despite occasional exchanges of pleasantries, he never really struck up a conversation with any of them. Everyone else made even less of an impression.

Except for a certain tall woman ...

Derek never actually met her. He saw her exactly once, and they never spoke. But, once seen, she was difficult to forget.

He was fairly sure she wasn't military; her thick hair, of a brown so dark as to look black in most lights, was too long, almost down to the small of her back.


Excerpted from Forge of the Titans by Steve White Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Steve White completed a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Naval officer. His SF adventure trilogy for Baen comprising The Disinherited, Legacy, and Debt of Ages was highly successful, as was Prince of Sunset, and its sequel Emperor of Dawn. With David Weber, he has collaborated on Insurrection, Crusade, In Death Ground, and The Shiva Option.

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Forge of the Titans 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
All Derek Secrest wants is to fly, which is why he is flight training at Pensacola trying to make the grade as a Naval Aviation Officer. However, when tests prove he has strong telepathic abilities, he is yanked out of school to work for Dr. Kronenberg and a top-secret agency. Derek uses his newly discovered powers to thwart a terrorist plot.

However, the terrorist leaders are not normal humans, but instead are remnants of Ancient Greece with superior technology and magic fueled by genocidal human sacrifices. Their partners are even more malevolent as the Titans want pandemic human destruction. Derek and other telepathics join with the Gods of Olympus to stop the Titans and their friends. However, their new allies are also quite wary of human psi abilities that may prove more powerful than the magic of the Gods.

FORGE OF THE TITANS is an exciting binding of mythology, horror, fantasy, and science fiction into an entertaining tale. The story line makes believers of the audience that the Greek Gods and their enemies, and magic and psionic skills exist as Steve White provides powerful support to each element within the framework of the action. Derek is a delightful ¿Greek¿ hero with a powerful support cast (friend and foe) so that the wide gamut of genre fans will fully appreciate a wonderful novel.

Harriet Klausner