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Sergeant Kendra Pacelli is innocent, but that doesn't matter to the repressive government pursuing her. Mistakes might be made, but they are never acknowledged, especially when billions of embezzled dollars earned from illegal weapons sales are at stake. But where does one run when all Earth and most settled planets are under the aegis of one government? Answer: The Freehold of Grainne, the only developed system that belongs to neither the UNES nor the Colonial Alliance. There, one may seek asylum and build a ...

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Sergeant Kendra Pacelli is innocent, but that doesn't matter to the repressive government pursuing her. Mistakes might be made, but they are never acknowledged, especially when billions of embezzled dollars earned from illegal weapons sales are at stake. But where does one run when all Earth and most settled planets are under the aegis of one government? Answer: The Freehold of Grainne, the only developed system that belongs to neither the UNES nor the Colonial Alliance. There, one may seek asylum and build a new life in a society that doesn't track its residents' every move, which is just what Pacelli has done. But now things are about to go royally to hell. Because Earth's government has found out where she is . . .

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Editorial Reviews

Sergeant Kendra Pacelli finishes her service in Mtali and is framed for selling weapons illegally. To save herself from an unforgiving government, the innocent Pacelli seeks refuge on the Freehold of Graine, a system that is not under Earth's governmental rules. The Freehold is also a system with mores and customs totally different from those of Earth. Although the language spoken is the same, the connotations can be different, for the Freehold is definitely an alien culture. Hallucinogens, sex, and weapons are not restricted. Food is generally extremely hot and spicy. Nudity in public is normal, and regular citizens carry firearms on a daily basis. Pacelli feels like an outsider in this bizarre society that she has chosen as a safe haven. After she joins the military on the Freehold, Pacelli becomes embroiled in a war between Earth and her new home. This highly readable SF adventure is a fast-paced, compulsive read. Kendra Pacelli is a strong female protagonist who can be spunky one minute and vulnerable the next. Her adaptation to the culture of Freehold is fascinating as the reader experiences the alien world through her eyes. Military SF readers will enjoy the technical details and the story of a fugitive soldier on the run while those who enjoy reading about alien cultures will appreciate the Freehold way of life. With its military action and alien cultures, this novel will appeal to fans of John Ringo, David Drake, Lois McMaster Bujold, and David Weber. A high adventure tale, this novel is recommended for military SF readers. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2004, Baen, 688p., Ages 17 to adult.
—Ginger Armstrong
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743471794
  • Publisher: Baen
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 688
  • Sales rank: 786,786
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Z. Williamson was born in Birkenhead, England and raised in Liverpool, and Toronto, Canada, before moving to Newark, Ohio. A 22-year veteran of the US Army and US Air Force, he is a state-ranked competitive shooter in combat rifle and combat pistol. His other books include Freehold and The Weapon for Baen, the "Target Terror" series for HarperCollins, (Targets of Opportunity, The Scope of Justice, Confirmed Kill) and The Hero, a collaboration with New York Times best-selling author John Ringo for Baen. He currently lives near Indianapolis with his wife Gail, also a veteran, their two children, and various cats that are not to be trusted.
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Read an Excerpt


By Michael Z. Williamson

Baen Books

ISBN: 0-7434-7179-2

Chapter One

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant."

-Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Sergeant Second Class Kendra Pacelli, UNPF, was looking forward to finally finishing the admin from her deployment to Mtali. The entire experience had been unpleasant, from the tedious, cramped trip there in a military transport, to the tedious, cramped trip back in a military transport. In between, the stay had been mostly boring, very aggravating, and exhausting when it wasn't boring.

She'd been eager at first. The chance to visit another planet, even one torn by war, she found exciting. Upon arriving, they'd all been restricted to base, so she saw nothing of the local culture. They were shipped through the UN starport, and there were not even vendors of local food to sample. Most of the other UN troops, predominantly from Earth, had insisted on not listening to "that raghead crap" music. She'd heard nothing but Earth pop for the entire six months.

Then the long-term troops had resented her for her trip's duration. They had eighteen-month rotations. It wasn't her fault, and she was there to help the Logistic Support Function, thus freeing someone else to go home early, but that didn't seem to matter. Apparently, they'd rather have stood the extra time than have her take a short tour.

There'd been a couple of missile attacks on the base while she was there. She'd been in an orbital station doing admin during one, and the shuttle simply waited until it was over to land. The other one was over before she realized it wasn't a drill, and the damage was negligible. She understood some areas had been pasted daily and had regular body counts, but she was nowhere near those places. She wasn't complaining, but the end result was that she had no war stories of any kind.

It had been typical logistics work; issuing, returning and accounting for gear and filing docs, except that the days were longer, the facilities nonexistent and the entertainment lacking. She wasn't a big fan of vid and the rec center's supply of books and games was slim. She also found few people who could play table games well. All in all, she might just as well have stayed home and not left her dorm.

She had received additional pay and got a tax in-centive, which would mean more records-keeping in exchange to justify the tax return. The rest of the pay came at the cost of, naturally, more admin. Sitting at her carrel, she coded off on her travel itinerary, her waivers for tests and boards missed while deployed and the return of her issued combat equipment. She had been ordered not to open that unless attacked, which she'd found bothersome. The fact that to inspect her gear for safety was deemed wrong because it generated more admin seemed illogical. But then, it was the military.

The thing which she wished she'd put off but had waded through first, was the documentation and her personal statement on missing property. Her personal gear was all accounted for, but literal transport loads of gear had gone "missing" on Mtali. She was a stickler for procedure, so she had accounted for the fact that everything she issued had gotten where it was supposed to. The first sergeant had relayed to her secondhand that some clown was claiming that her attention to detail proved she was involved. "He's just digging. Relax," she'd been told.

She still felt nervous. Trucks, generators, weapons and tools didn't just walk off by themselves. Most required lift gear to move. A rapidly maturing and increasingly cynical part of her surmised that they were being sold by someone in system. Well, if they checked her bank accounts, they were all as she reported. She just wished they'd hurry up and do so and get done with it.

Her musing was interrupted when her phone rang. Not a military line at her carrel, but her personal phone. She dug it out of her purse, wondering who was calling.

"Pacelli," she answered.

"Hi, dear. Don't mention my name," the caller said. It was Tom Anderson, an old lover who was an MP. "We are getting all kinds of activity. Arrests are expected for Robinson, Bruder, Jacobs, Pacelli and several others. If those people are lucky, they are off base right now. They'll be in for a nasty surprise when they return."

"Why? What's up?" she asked, shocked beyond reason.

"Apparently, the government has found the parties responsible for the equipment that went missing during the Mtali mission. All those people are part of the conspiracy."

"I'm not part of any conspiracy," she protested in a whisper. "All I did was document what went walkies. That was at the general's request."

He continued as if he hadn't heard her protest. "What's important is that they are looking for those people. The way things look, they'd be lucky if they were missing, permanently. You know how the Department of Special Investigations can overreact. I just hope they don't come through the gate; I don't need any excitement right now. Anyway, the reason I called: you left some things at my place last night," he said, although she hadn't been there in weeks. "I put them in the car. Gotta run, we are about to start a gate exercise. Love you." Click.

Kendra hung up the phone, hesitated a half-second, then stood, grabbing a folder. She tried to be casual as she walked down the hall. A quick nervous glance didn't show any suited goons coming for her, but she had no doubt Tom was correct. There were horror stories of people being dragged in for even being "associated" with criminals. But where could she go?

Just before she reached the door, Janie came out of the back office. "Kendra, can you-"

"Sorry," Kendra replied, waving the folder, "I've gotta take care of this for the lieutenant right now." The old trick of looking busy had always seemed rather shallow before. It now had a whole new meaning. She stepped outside, whipped her hat on and tried to walk slowly to her car, as if she were running an errand. Unlocking it, she climbed in and discovered an overnight bag on the passenger seat. As she started the engine, she glanced in. Street clothes, socks, shoes, underwear and some cash cards. Tom must have used a security code to override her dorm room lock. She hoped that wasn't traceable, but he was good at such things. That had made her nervous, when she discovered he could crack codes and bypass records. Now she thanked Tom silently while backing out carefully. A wreck now would really be hell. Could this really be happening? She had to believe him, but it seemed so unreal.

The UN Bureau of Security was not known for its polite inquiries into alleged crimes. If they believed a person was involved with "improper activity" or "activity prejudicial to the public good," they proceeded to investigate thoroughly. The accused was held incommunicado, all assets seized and in-depth interviews conducted with the accused and any family or friends who might be involved. If they suspected any dissemblance, they could always revert to the clauses that gave them authority to hold the accused until they were satisfied. There were also numerous rarely enforced laws they could invoke to continue their efforts. The story was that they only used those tactics against someone they couldn't prosecute any other way, but Kendra had recently come to believe, in part due to vids Tom had shown her, that those tactics were unfair and designed to make the prosecutors look good, not do justice to the accused. She'd been creeped enough by his near-sedition to stop seeing him. There were enough antigovernment activists in America now without having to deal with out-and-out traitors.

It had a whole new feel now, she reflected briefly as she drove out of the logistics zone of the sprawling base. They thought she was guilty. Several tens of millions of marks worth of property had gone missing during the Mtali mission. She'd done the file search, at the request of the chain of command, to determine how much. That was the total extent of her involvement. She knew she was innocent and they couldn't prove otherwise ... or could they? "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" didn't apply when circumstances dictated that both guilty and innocent alike should wisely flee for their lives. She shivered slightly. Did she really want to leave? Wouldn't it be better to trust in her innocence? Where could she go?

She aged ten years in the six blocks to the gate, then relaxed very slightly when she saw Tom in the booth. What is he getting himself into? she asked herself. The traffic control outside the gate signaled a stop and she aged ten more years. Behind her, she could see the barricades rising and swallowed hard. That made it rather permanent, she thought. She picked a route north into Maryland and kept the car on manual. She didn't know how long it would be before an override signal got her. She'd have to lose the car. She had no idea how, or where to go after that. Off planet, maybe? The Orbitals were not as strict on ID, but fleeing criminals were captured regularly. Outsystem? But where? Ramadan was not friendly to unescorted women, Novaja Rossia demanded strict qualifications and background checks, Caledonia was a UN nation ...

Counting the cash in her bag, she found a thousand marks in three money cards and cash and a note scrawled, "All I can spare. Hate to see you get driven like this. I disabled your override circuit, so don't use auto. If you can, lie low for a few months, they may sort this out. Still care about you." It was unsigned. She cried while driving and tried to think of a solution.

Her mind was whirling too hard for thought, but she knew she'd need cash before they locked her work and insurance number. Stopping at a rest area, she picked a remote parking slot and changed, hunched in the front seat. Wearing her uniform off base would not only be distinctive, it was also an invitation to be mugged and raped, especially for women. Once done, she pulled back onto the highway and found a suburban exit. She pulled into a plaza and used a bank terminal, then found another one a few blocks away. Six different transactions yielded every penny she had in the world, in small enough chunks that no single one would show up at UNRS immediately. As she made the last withdrawal, an idea occurred to her. It was insane, but there was no logical reason why it was impossible. The odds were such that no bookie would take the bet, but better than nothing, which was what she had now.

The Grainne colony had been independent for ten years now and had not only refused to join the UN, but had refused to go along with most of the common standards of ship registry, public health, public standards or even reciprocity of laws. That was the crucial bit. If she could make it there, they wouldn't extradite her. It was quite the rogue as nations went. It also reportedly had an excellent standard of living. As with many frontier worlds, there were not enough people for all jobs. A frontier colony was not the nicest environment for an urbanite like herself, but it would be safe until this resolved.

She gave one last searching thought to whether or not she should do it. The millions of marks at stake made her believe that scapegoats, bribes and various irregularities would be the end result of this. She was sophisticated enough to realize that being innocent would not protect her and being poor and of low rank would make her a doormat. This was a chance to wait things out. She reached for her phone, hesitated, then sought a public phone and looked up the address.

* * *

In a suburb south of where Kendra had made her decision was the embassy of the Freehold of Grainne. It was an old twenty-third-century windowless block, surrounded by a wall and other, less blatant, security measures. In a spacious office on the top floor, an old discussion was being rehashed yet again.

Assistant for Policy Gunter Marx entered the office and informed Citizen Ambassador Janine Maartens of the Freehold of Grainne, "The UN is protesting our declaration of withdrawal again."

"Any new language?" was the bored return. Maartens' desk defied the advantages of electronic data. It was strewn with notes, official copies of documents, flash ram, memory cubes and assorted other items in archeological layers by age in a display that clashed with the spare blond paneling and carpet.

Marx said, "No. All the same as last year. John Abraham requests a meeting with you to discuss the perceived inequalities. He is sure we can find an agreeable solution."

"One that involves taxes, government interference, restrictions of our personal rights 'for the public good,' and a seven-year plan for the future, of course. Tell him I'm dead."


She sat back and ran a hand through her graying waves of hair. "You know what I mean, Gun. My regards to Secretary Abraham and I'll call him at my earliest inconvenience. Right now I am dealing with major industrialists and billions of credits are at stake. I don't want to deal with an issue that should be seven years dead."

"Yes, ma'am," he agreed. He didn't envy her position and wondered again why he'd elected to throw himself into the bureaucratic rat maze. "Also: Warrant Leader McLaren says there is a car across the street, occupied by a young blonde woman, that has been there for most of a div. She is watching the gate."

"Great. An obvious decoy. Any sign of the real threat?" the ambassador asked. The UN and several of its member nations loved to play spy games. Observers here, line taps there, always some kind of low-level harassment.

"Not yet. He says his people are ready, though," Marx confirmed. He'd made sure of that himself.

"They always are," she nodded. At least the espionage kept her security people alert. "Keep me informed. I have to smooth out some details between GM North America and GM Freehold. The UN Secretary of External Trade is the problem. Everyone else sees the advantages of the deal."

"Yes, ma'am."

* * *

Kendra became attentive as a truck pulled up to the gates. She started the motor and waited. Her plan was to pull through after the delivery of whatever cleared the entrance. Cautiously, she gave the motor a bit of rev to ensure it was working. It was, of course. She gasped her breath out in furious realization of how panicky she was. She hadn't realized she'd been holding it and didn't realize she was holding the next one. Watching the truck, she tried to judge distances and space while keeping an eye on traffic. There'd be an opening in the flow right after that red car in her mirror.

The gates were already sliding shut on their powered rails.


Excerpted from Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 1, 2013

    Reminiscent of Heinlein

    I loved this book. Good old-fashioned space opera. Williamson's style, wit and characters are reminiscent of Heinlein or Spider Robinson, my top two favorite SF authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Must-own book for any libertarian...

    This is the story of a woman who escapes U.N. persecution.....only to have that persecution follow her to (and attempt to destroy) the last truly free society in the galaxy. It's a good sci-fi story but doesn't get so technical as to scare away readers afraid of hard science fiction while the political commentary doesn't get too dry because it is driven by the characters. This book is a must-own for any libertarian and an insightful read for anyone else.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2008

    Great Book!

    I am new to the genre and am going through and reading the greats. This book caught my eye and I picked it up. I am so glad I did. The story is so rich and full. It is not overly technical or childish. It is just the right mix. Mr. Williamson has created in the Freehold a place that I would want to live.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2005

    Loved it

    A really good book that gives you a look into what humanity in general could come to be. It does jump from 'this is the world in general' to 'THIS IS WAR!', but otherwise seems fairly plausible. The references to Mtali were a bit confusing, because we never find out what actually happened there, but that could just be in another book I haven't heard of.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    Enjoyable read , but....

    Weighing in at over 650 pages, this paperback switches gears midway from the 'day-in-the-life-of' events to bone crushing, head splitting, jaw breaking, shrapnel flinging, horror and pain of being on the loosing side of battle against a stronger occupying force. Unfortunatly, I was looking for a novel with a strong female character but instead found an intresting, and sometimes boring 'What-If?' Sociology experimental as we follow Kendra Pacelli, a leaf in the wind, through the trials and tribulations of self imposed excile to a frontier planet known as the Freehold of Grainne. For 200p we follow Kendra as she creates a new life for herself on Freehold (the real main character of the book by the way), knowing she can never return to her true home, Earth, for fear of imprisonment for a crime she did not commit. Along the way Kendra makes new friends and lovers. Here is where the author stuffs everything he can about this facinating new society into as many pages as he can all the while trying to keep the readers attention by throwing in episodes of casual relations with and between all of the main characters, hoping that we don't shelf the book before the real action happens. As it happens, the military brilliance of Williamson takes over and things finally pick around page 300p. many pages does it take to get to the center of a juicy Freehold? Answer, 1 because I ripped-off the first 300. Parents should note that adult themes are peppered throughout this book. If you like furturistic Sociology, you may also enjoy L.E. Modesitte, Jr.'s 'Adiamante'. If you are looking for a strong female character, check out Chris Moriarty's 'Spin State'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2004

    Brazen and darning

    A nice piece of work, researched and well written. The author must have spent time in the military, giving him the ability to forecast how Armed Forces may do battle in the future. Brazen and darning... If this novel isn't nominated for a Hugo Award, I'll be surprised.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2003

    Heinlein Tradition

    After the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein, Freehold presents the reader with delightful characterization and a compelling plot, but the great literary gems are in the background. This tale is of the hazards of living within and around those fungal bureaucracies that grow in the shadows of an entitlement-based government. It is also a look at how things could be different¿one way that freedom lovers might attempt to build utopia if given the opportunities and challenges of colonized space. Enter Williamson¿s vision of the future to see what horrors we might create and how even so, some may still try to ¿secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.¿

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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