Once a Hero (Serrano Legacy Series #4)

( 12 )


Esmay Suiza wasn't a member of a great Navy family like the Serranos. She'd had to make her way on grit alone, which meant it wasn't likely she'd ever make admiral and "hoist her own flag." Well, that was fine with her: all Esmay wanted was a secure berth where she could be part of something greater than herself, and otherwise just live her life in peace. But what we want or think we want from life and what we get are seldom the same - and one day Esmay found herself in the middle of a space battle, and the ...
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Esmay Suiza wasn't a member of a great Navy family like the Serranos. She'd had to make her way on grit alone, which meant it wasn't likely she'd ever make admiral and "hoist her own flag." Well, that was fine with her: all Esmay wanted was a secure berth where she could be part of something greater than herself, and otherwise just live her life in peace. But what we want or think we want from life and what we get are seldom the same - and one day Esmay found herself in the middle of a space battle, and the senior surviving officer in a mutiny against a traitorous captain. Suddenly she has no choice: she must take command and win - and thereby become both the youngest and lowest-ranking member of Fleet ever to win a major battle. While Esmay may not want to be a hero, it looks like she just can't help it, because Once A Hero....

From the author of the popular "Heris Serrano" series. Esme just wants a secure berth and to live her life out in peace. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a space battle with the senior surviving officer in a mutiny against a treacherous captain. Suddenly she's the youngest, lowest-ranking member of the fleet ever to win a major battle . . . and she can't help being a heroine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Over the last decade, Moon (Remnant Population) has established herself as one of the best-known and most acclaimed writers of SF adventure. Her latest novel expands the setting of her Heris Serrano space opera series, popular for its smooth blending of martial action and unusual cultural perspective. Born on a colony world where the inbred military culture doesn't allow women to command, Lieutenant Junior Grade Esmay Suiza is the first person from her planet to attend the Fleet Academy and graduate into service aboard one of the great military ships. After joining a mutiny against a traitorous captain, assuming command and leading her ship successfully through intense combat, Suiza wants nothing more than to return to anonymity. The stress of that brief, bloody command and a subsequent court martial, however, have brought up old nightmares that can't be laid to rest until Suiza can come to terms with a horrible childhood trauma whose real nature her parents have kept from her for more than 10 years. In spite of a few too-convenient plot twists, this is a satisfying read, full of the finely detailed settings and excitement that Moon's readers have come to expect, and featuring a heroine whose self-doubts and inner strength lend her considerable appeal. (Mar.)
Library Journal
In Moon's (Remnant Population, LJ 5/15/96) hard sf adventure, Lt. Esmay Suiza faces a military court hearing following her emergency captaining of a patrol ship during battle after the captain turned out to be a traitor. Tormented by nightmares from repressed memories of sexual assault, Esmay recaptures her self-esteem and the military's trust. Highly recommended.
Kirkus Reviews
More military sf from the author of Remnant Population (1996, not seen) and several paperbacks. Young Lieutenant (j.g.) Esmay Suiza, a classic underachiever, faces a court martial for mutiny. Fortunately, though, her superiors realize that she was actually the hero: She defeated the mutineers aboard her ship, then took command and destroyed an attacking warship. So she's promoted and reassigned to Koskiusko, a huge deep space-repair ship, where agents of the barbarian-warrior Bloodhorde are already working to disable the ship's autodestruct—so that when a small Bloodhorde invasion force successfully boards Koskiusko, the captain can't destroy his vessel. Esmay, thanks to her recent combat experience, plays a leading role in regaining control of Koskiusko and defeating the Bloodhorde ships that arrive to capture her. But why can't Esmay fully realize her potential combat talents? Well, as a young girl on planet Altiplano, she was brutally raped during a civil war—and her military family rigidly denied the entire experience, leaving Esmay with psychological scars she will need therapy to overcome.

Always enthralling and sometimes exciting, despite a few annoying shifts of focus, with excellent characters, impeccable military presence, and satisfying complications.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671878719
  • Publisher: Baen
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Series: Serrano Legacy Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 782,633
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Once a Hero

By Elizabeth Moon

Baen Books

Copyright © 1997 Elizabeth Moon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-671-57842-1

Chapter One

R.S.S. Harrier, near Xavier

Esmay Suiza had done her best to clean up before reporting as ordered to the admiral aboard her flagship, but the mutiny and the following battle had left her little time. She had showered, and run her uniform through the cycler, but it wasn't her dress uniform-the fight aboard Despite had put holes through interior bulkheads and started innumerable small fires, including one in the junior officers' storage compartment. She herself, though clean, had not slept well in ... however many days it had been. She knew her eyes were bloodshot and sticky with fatigue; her hands trembled. She had the stomach-clenching feeling that her best wasn't good enough.

Admiral Serrano looked like an older edition of Captain Serrano, the same compact trim frame, the same bronze skin. Here the dark hair was streaked silver, and a few lines marked the broad forehead, but she gave an impression of crackling energy held just in check.

"Lieutenant Junior Grade Suiza reporting, sir." At least her voice didn't shake. Those few days of command had ironed out the uneasy flutter she used to struggle against.

"Have a seat, Lieutenant." The admiral had no expression Esmay could read. She sat in the appointed chair, glad that her knees held and she made it a controlled descent. When she was down safely, the admiral nodded, and went on. "I have reviewed your summary of events aboard Despite. It seems to have been a very ... difficult ... time."

"Yes, sir." That was safe. In a world of danger, that was always safe; so she had been taught in the Academy and her first ship postings. But her memory reminded her that it wasn't always true, that a "Yes, sir," to Captain Hearne had been treason, and a "Yes, sir," to Major Dovir had been mutiny.

"You do understand, Lieutenant, that it is mandatory for all officers participating in a mutiny to stand before a court to justify their actions?" That in a voice almost gentle, as if she were a child. She would never be a child again.

"Yes, sir," she said, grateful for the gentleness even though she knew it would do her no lasting good. "We-I-have to take responsibility."

"That's right. And you, because you are the senior surviving officer, and the one who ended up in command of the ship, will bear the brunt of this investigation and the court." The admiral paused, looking at her with that quiet, expressionless face; Esmay felt cold inside. They had to have a scapegoat, is that what it meant? She would be to blame for the whole thing, even though she hadn't even known, at first-even though the senior officers-now dead-had tried to keep the youngsters out of it? Panic filled in a quick sketch of her future: dismissed, disgraced, thrown out of Fleet and forced to return home. She wanted to argue that it wasn't fair, but she knew better. Fairness wasn't the issue here. The survival of ships, which depended on the absolute obedience of all to the captain ... that was the issue.

"I understand," she said finally. She almost understood.

"I won't tell you that such a court is merely a formality, even in a case like this," the admiral said. "A court is never a mere formality. Things always come out in courts to the detriment of everyone concerned-things that might not matter ordinarily. But in this case, I don't want you to panic. It is clear from your report, and that of other personnel-" Which, Esmay hoped, might mean the admiral's niece, "-that you did not instigate the mutiny, and that there is a reasonable probability that the mutiny will be held to be justified." The knot in Esmay's stomach loosened slightly. "Obviously, it is necessary to remove you from command of Despite."

Esmay felt her face heating, more relief than embarrassment. She was so tired of having to figure out how to ask the senior NCOs what to do next without violating protocol. "Of course, sir," she said, with a little more enthusiasm than she meant to show. The admiral actually smiled now.

"Frankly, I'm surprised that a jig could take over Despite and handle her in battle-let alone get off the decisive shot. That was good work, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, sir." She felt herself going even redder, and embarrassment overcame reticence. "Actually, it was the crew-'specially Master Chief Vesec-they knew what to do."

"They always do," the admiral said. "But you had the sense to let them, and the guts to come back. You're young; you made mistakes of course-" Esmay thought of their first attempt to join the fight, the way she'd insisted on too high an insertion velocity and forced them to blow past. She hadn't known then about the glitch in the nav computer, but that was no excuse. The admiral went on, recapturing her attention. "But I believe you have the root of the matter in you. Stand your court, take your medicine, whatever it is, and-good luck to you, Lieutenant Suiza." The admiral stood; Esmay scrambled up to shake the hand extended to her. She was being dismissed; she didn't know where she was going or what would happen next, but-but she felt a warm glow where the cold knot had been.

As the escort outside made clear, where she was going was a quarantined section of officers' country on the flagship. Peli and the few other junior officers were already there, stowing their duffels in the lockers and looking glum.

"Well, she didn't eat you alive," Peli said. "I suppose my turn's coming. What's she like?"

"A Serrano," Esmay said. That should be enough; she wasn't about to discuss an admiral's character on board a ship. "There's a court coming-but you know that." They had not so much talked about it, as touched the subject and flinched away.

"At the moment," Peli said, "I'm just as glad you had the seniority and not me. Though we're all in trouble."

She had been glad to lay down command, but just for a moment she wanted it back, so she could tell Peli to be quiet. And so she would have something to do. It took only a minute or two to stow her own meager duffel in the compartment she'd been assigned, and only another to wonder how much the officer evicted from it would resent having to double up with someone else. Then she was faced with blank walls-or an empty passage-or the cluster of fellow mutineers in the tiny wardroom which was all the common space they would have until the admiral decreed otherwise. Esmay lay back on her bunk and wished she could turn off the relentless playback in her head, that kept showing her the same gruesome scenes over and over and over. Why did they seem worse each time?

"Of course they're listening," Peli said. Esmay paused in the wardroom entrance; four of the others were there, listening to Peli. He looked up, his glance including her in the conversation. "We have to assume they're monitoring everything we say and do."

"That's standard," Esmay said. "Even in normal situations." One of her own stomach-clenching fears was that the forensic teams sent to Despite would find out that she talked in her sleep. She didn't know, but if she had, and if she had talked during those nightmares ...

"Yes, but now they're paying attention," Peli said.

"Well, we didn't do anything wrong." That was Arphan, a mere ensign. "We weren't traitors, and we didn't lead the mutiny either. So I don't see where they can do anything to us."

"Not to you, no," Peli said, with an edge of contempt. "From this, if from nothing else, ensigns are safe. Although you could die of fright facing the court."

"Why should I face a court?" Arphan, like Esmay, had come to the Academy from a non-Service family. Unlike Esmay, he had come from an influential non-Service Family, with friends who held Seats in Council, and expected family clout to get him out of things.

"Regulations," Peli said crisply. "You were a commissioned officer serving aboard a vessel on which a mutiny occurred: you will stand before a court." Esmay didn't mind Peli's brutal directness so much when it was aimed at someone else, but she knew he'd be at her soon enough. "But don't worry," Peli went on. "You're unlikely to spend very long at hard labor. Esmay and I, on the other hand-" he looked up at her and smiled, a tight unhappy smile. "Esmay and I are the senior surviving officers. Questions will be asked. If they decide to make an example, we are the ones to be made an example of. Jigs are an eminently expendable class."

Arphan looked at both of them, and then, without another word, squeezed past two of the others, and Esmay at the door.

"Avoiding contamination," Liam said cheerfully. He was another jig, junior to Peli but part of Peli's "expendable class."

"Just as well," Peli said. "I don't like whiners. D'you know, he wanted me to press the admiral for damage payments to replace a ruined uniform?"

Esmay could not help thinking what the necessary replacements were going to do to her small savings.

"And he's rich," Liam said. Liam Livadhi, Service to the core and for many generations, on both sides of the family. He could afford to sound cheerful; he probably had a dozen cousins who had just outgrown whatever uniforms he needed.

"Speaking of the court," Esmay made herself say. "What are the uniform protocols?"

"Uniforms!" Peli glared at her. "You too?"

"For the court, Peli, not for display!" It came out sharper than she intended, and he blinked in surprise.

"Oh. Right." She could practically see the little wheels flickering behind his eyes, calculating, remembering. "I don't really know; the only things I've seen were those cubes back in the Academy, in military law classes. And that was usually just the last day, the verdict. I don't know if they wore dress the whole time."

"The thing is," Esmay said, "if we need new uniforms made, we have to have time for it." Officers' dress uniforms, unlike regular duty uniforms, were handmade by licensed tailors. She did not want to appear before a court in something non-regulation.

"Good point. There wasn't much left of the stuff in that compartment, so we have to assume that all our dress uniforms were damaged." He looked up at her. "You'll have to ask about it, Esmay; you're still the senior."

"Not any more." Even as she said it, she knew she was, for this purpose. Peli didn't quite sneer, but he didn't offer to help out, either.

"On this, you are the one. Sorry, Es', but you have to."

Asking about the uniforms brought her to the notice of the paper-pushers again. As captain-even for those few days-she had the responsibility to sign off on all the innumerable forms required.

"Not the death letters," Lieutenant Commander Hosri said. "The admiral felt that the families would prefer to have those signed by a more senior officer who could better explain the circumstances." Esmay had completely forgotten that duty: the captain must write to the family of any crew members who died while assigned to the ship. She felt herself blushing. "And there are other major reports which the admiral feels should be deferred until Forensics has completed its examination. But you left a lot of routine stuff undone, Suiza."

"Yes, sir," Esmay said, her heart sinking again. When could she have done it? How could she have known? The excuses raced through her mind and out again: no excuses were enough.

"Have your officers fill out these forms-" he handed her a sheaf of them. "Turn them in, completed and countersigned by you, within forty-eight hours, and I'll forward them to the admiral's staff for approval. If approved, that will authorize officers to arrange for replacements of uniforms-and yes, that will include Fleet authorization to forward measurements to registered tailors, so they can get started. Now, we need to deal with the basic reports that should have been filed, or ready to file, at the time when you were relieved of command of Despite."

The junior officers were not delighted with the forms; some of them procrastinated, and Esmay found herself having to nag them to finish the paperwork by the deadline. "None too early," grunted Hosri's senior clerk, when Esmay brought the reports in. He glanced at the clock. "What'd you do, wait until the last minute?"

She said nothing; she didn't like this clerk, and she had had to work with him for two straight shifts on the incomplete reports Hosri thought she should do. Just let it be over with, she told herself, even though she knew that the reports were the least of her problems. While she worked on those, the other young officers faced daily sessions with investigators determined to find out exactly how it was that a R.S.S. patrol ship had been captained by a traitor, and then embroiled in mutiny. Her turn would come next.

Forensics had swarmed over the Despite, stripping the records from the automatic surveillance equipment, searching every compartment, questioning every survivor, examining all the bodies in the ship's morgue. Esmay could only imagine that search, from the questions they asked each day. First with no visual cues at all, when they asked her to explain, moment by moment, where she had been and what she had seen, heard, and done when Captain Hearne took the ship away from Xavier. Later, with a 3-D display of the ship, they led her through it again. Exactly where had she been? Facing which way? When she said she saw Captain Hearne the last time, where was Hearne, and what had she been doing?

Esmay had never been good at this sort of thing. She found out quickly that she had apparently perjured herself already: she could not, from where she remembered she'd been sitting, have seen Lt. Commander Forrester come out of the cross-corridor the way she'd said. It was, the interrogator pointed out, physically impossible to see around corners without special instruments. Had she had any? No. But her specialty had been scan. Was she sure she had not rigged something up? And again here-lines of her earlier testimony moved down the monitor alongside the image of the ship. Could she explain how she had gotten from her own quarters back here all the way forward and down two decks in only fifteen seconds? Because there was a clear picture of her-she recognized herself with familiar distaste-in the access corridor to the forward portside battery at 18:30:15, when she had insisted she was in her own quarters for the 18:30 duty report.

Esmay had no idea, and said so. She had made a habit of being in her quarters for that duty report; it had meant that she didn't have to linger in the junior officers' wardroom and join the day's gossip, or make her report with the others. Surely she would have done so even more readily with the rumors then sweeping the ship. She didn't like rumors; rumors got you in trouble. People fought over rumors and then were in more trouble.


Excerpted from Once a Hero by Elizabeth Moon Copyright © 1997 by Elizabeth Moon. 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
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2010

    Moon does not disappoint

    Because Elizabeth Moon's 'Remnant Population' remains on my all time list of favorite books, I decided to read more of her works.
    I started with the Heris Serrano series. 'Once a Hero' is the first book of this series. Ms. Moon does not disappoint.
    Esmay Suiza is introduced to us at the beginning of the book going into a Court Martial. I begin to doubt that I've correctly picked the first book of the series, thinking I've missed something of the story. But the story unfolds backward and we begin to understand this very likeable character. In her actions, I see our own current military forces in action.
    I'm amazed at the detail, very military-like structure and language, reminiscent of the 'Halo' books. What is not real, such as warp speed, space travel, etc.) becomes very believable.
    It was a little tricky to suspend disbelief that this young lieutenant with very little combat experience could outperform and outthink admirals and other higher ranking officers with much more experience. But that becomes somewhat more plausible when you begin to understand her cultural upbringing and her own family's solid military background.
    Very entertaining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable reading

    This book like many of Moons books is will writen and keeps you attention. I really enjoyed it and look foward to other book by her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2005

    Character study and space adventure

    Esmay Suiza doesn't think of herself as a hero, because she's sure she isn't capable of heroic behavior. Certainly she has no gift for command. All she wants in the universe is a chance to live and die away from her native Altiplano, as an officer (preferably a very ordinary and obscure officer) in the Regular Space Service. But after taking command of the Despite when everyone above her in the command chain either turns traitor or dies in the resulting mutiny - and after becoming, as a result, the lowest-ranked officer who's ever won a battle - Lieutenant (j.g.) Suiza can't go back to her cherished anonymity. So Admiral Vida Serrano tells her between the battle's end and the start of her court martial, and so Esmay learns for sure when she goes back to Altiplano for the first time since she was 14. The lesson continues in her next assignment, as a full lieutenant aboard the deep space repair ship Koskiusko. On the Koskiusko Esmay makes the first opposite-gender friend she's ever had: Vida Serrano's grandson, Ensign Barin Serrano. Her new superiors, understanding that this young woman's command gifts are just that - real gifts, unlocked for the first time by the events aboard Despite - search in growing frustration for ways to convince Esmay that she must accept who she really is, and develop the talents no one knew she possessed during her first ten years of RSS life. Then a Bloodhorde commando unit finds its way aboard Koskiusko, and once again Esmay Suiza must rise to the challenge. Once a hero, there's no going back. Part character study (well done, indeed) and part blood-and-thunder space adventure, this book bogs down at times during its first half; but after that the action comes fast and furious. Well worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2000

    Excellent character development!

    It's always exciting to come across a great writer whose work you haven't read before. That's how I feel about Elizabeth Moon. I initially picked up this book because the idea of Esmay intrigued me. An unlikely, somewhat unwilling hero, with fears and self-doubt...a person who had never excelled before, who didn't seem to be the hero type...yet she achieved the impossible and now has to question her knowledge of herself. This is not just a story about a battle in space. This is a character study about a person at a crossroads in her life, with several paths before her and a difficult decision to make. Science Fiction is at its best when there is a solid story behind the plot, and characters that stay in your mind long after you've read the book. Elizabeth Moon achieves both beautifully.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2000

    An Exciting Heroine

    Esmey is one of my favorite characters. She is strong and intelligent and overcomes some great obstacles in Once A Hero. The battles and strategies are exciting. I have reread this book many times and highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2000

    Once a hero, always a great story!

    This is a really good book. I wish I coud read a sequel to it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2000

    Esmay is my Hero(ine)

    This is a great read and a wonderful book. There is not only action but plenty of character development and 'world-building' as well. Enjoyable if you really like a strong but believable central character.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2013

    I want this as an ebook please!

    I want this as an ebook please!

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  • Posted January 3, 2013

    Just finished this one. Love her books. Great characters, great

    Just finished this one. Love her books. Great characters, great stories.  Have also read some the Vatta's war books.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2009

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