Screaming across the Sky: Gammalaw

Overview

Galactic war was simple . . . win or die

Arrival on the ominous planet of Aquamarine was a splashdown into danger and death for Periapt high priestess Dextra Haven and her ragtag force of scientists and Ext warriors. Yet Dextra was undeterred, certain that Aquamarine held the key to peace between humans and a fierce alien race.

But the priestess and her mighty warriors would need to summon all their powers, for the sea-planet was rife with many...

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Overview

Galactic war was simple . . . win or die

Arrival on the ominous planet of Aquamarine was a splashdown into danger and death for Periapt high priestess Dextra Haven and her ragtag force of scientists and Ext warriors. Yet Dextra was undeterred, certain that Aquamarine held the key to peace between humans and a fierce alien race.

But the priestess and her mighty warriors would need to summon all their powers, for the sea-planet was rife with many deadly mysteries--and conquerors both seen and unseen lurked in cyberspace and outer space waiting to invade, possess, and destroy. . . .

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345422095
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Series: GammaLAW Ser.
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Daley's first novel, The Doomfarers of Coramonde, was published on the first Del Rey list in 1977. It was an immediate success, and Brian went on to write its sequel, The Starfollowers of Coramonde, and many other successful novels: A Tapestry of Magics, three volumes of The Adventures of Hobart Floyt and Alacrity Fitzhugh, and, under the shared pseudonym Jack McKinney, ten and one half of the twenty-one Robotech novels. He first conceived of the complex GammaLAW saga in Nepal, in 1984, and worked on its four volumes for the next twelve years, finishing it shortly before his death in 1996.

Brian was enthralled by the Star Wars saga and very excited by the possibilities it afforded for popularizing science fiction for the mass audience, so he was very pleased to be chosen as the author for the first Star Wars spin-off novels, the three volumes of The Han Solo Adventures, one of which became a New York Times bestseller. He continued his association with Star Wars by writing the radioplays for "Star Wars,  "The Empire Strikes Back,  and "Return of the Jedi.

The morning following the wrap party for the recording of the radioplay "Return of the Jedi,  Brian Daley died, of complications due to the cancer he'd been battling for a year.

Brian Daley was a Vietnam veteran; a great writer; and a great guy. We at Del Rey miss him.

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Read an Excerpt

The black airmobile VTOLs came in level with the tops of Iskra's twisted scrub, scarcely more than three meters above the rolling countryside.
Detectors placed around the LAW detention facility in Periapt's western hemisphere had already been knocked out by elite pathfinder teams, and--by special agreement--intelsat observers were looking the other way.

The whine of turbines muffled by countersonics was Farley Swope's first clue that something out of the ordinary was going down. She, Hippo Nolan,
and the rest of the Scepter survey team--relocated to the Iskra facility a month earlier as a consequence of Claude Mason's escape from
Blades Station--couldn't decide whether the incoming ships constituted the vanguard of a Roke attack or elements of a LAW death squad--Periapt's
Legal Annexation of Worlds forces.

A few of the facility's guard towers got off some ineffective fire before the raiders answered with shock-and-stun ordnance. Caught near a barracks viewpane with Hippo, Ice, and a couple of the others, Farley hit the floor.

Illumination rounds began to blossom outside the viewpane. The guards brandished weapons as they attempted to drive the detainees back to their quarters for a lockdown. The reaction of the guards was due only to the fact that they hadn't been apprised of the raid beforehand. Before they could accomplish much, a door was blasted open and concentrated nonlethal small arms fire poured through the breach, flooring two guards and one team member--Simone Weiner. They continued to shove the Scepter
crew back, while others scrambled to take cover and return fire. Nova light streamed into the barracks from all sides, making it was impossible to see precisely who was storming the facility.

Opposite the guards' defensive positions a corner of the prefab building was ripped away by explosives. Soldiers wearing LAW battlesuits came through the opening low, firing nonlethals and lobbing shock grenades.
Alarms blared from the PA speakers, which the raiders shot to pieces with solid projectiles. From beneath her bunk Farley saw the unprotected guards quickly outmaneuvered and neutralized.

Gradually, the inside and outside worlds quieted somewhat.

An engineer with the Scepter crew, Farley knew enough about military ops to appreciate the training that had to have gone into the assault; the raiders seemed to have every contingency covered, down to the last detail. When they began calling out the names of the survey team members, she hoped they would be equally methodical when it came to killing her.

She had been anticipating this moment since the team's ignoble return from
Aquamarine several months earlier, a mission that had eaten up almost twenty baseline years, though Farley and the others had aged scarcely four. Nevertheless, she cowered under the bunk for well over a minute.
Then, steeling herself, she ran in a crouch for what remained of the barracks doorway.

The raiders intercepted her before she was halfway there. It was obvious that she was unarmed, but the raiders kept their weapons trained on her while their apparent commander stepped over to where they had made her kneel. His face was concealed behind the rebreather apparatus of his
LAW-issue helmet.

"Farley Swope?" he asked.

She nodded, then deliberately glanced around at the damage. "You better hope they don't take this out of your salary, soldier," she told him.

He stared at her for a long moment, then laughed. "You've got us all wrong, Farley. We're friends of Claude Mason."

"Mason?" she said in confusion. "But you're LAW--aren't you?"

"A relatively recent development--and somewhat beyond our control, in any event. My name is Burning."

An expression of guarded relief came to Farley's face. "You're the commander of the Exts--from Concordance." The term as short for
"exteroceptive," referring to the slave implants Burning's ancestors had been forced to wear before their liberation during the Cyberplagues.

Burning gestured broadly toward the barracks. "This was the only way we could convey Dextra Haven's job offer to you."

Farley blinked almost tearfully. "Hierarch Haven has a job for me?"

"For all of you," Burning amended.

His hand was moving toward the release tabs of his helmet when a muffled detonation issued from somewhere in the barracks. As everyone swung toward the sound, the hand of one of Burning's subordinates came down hard on the commander's own.

"Bioweapon!" the Ext said, showing Burning some sort of wrist-worn analyzer. "We musta tripped a fail-safe!"

Burning froze in place, then shouted, "Get these people outside! Delta-V!"

Someone had seen to it that none of the Scepter team would leave
Iskra alive unless by order of LAW. The poison gas released by the hidden fail-safe device was already beginning to work on Farley when an Ext scooped her off the floor and began to lumber toward the scorched doorway.

She heard strangled cries from some of the guards and team members. Then her thoughts began a slow downward spiral into a seemingly bottomless well of silence.

She died peacefully just outside the doorway.

"If you need to blame someone, Burning, you can blame me," Dextra Haven's holo was saying. "I should have known something was wrong from the start.
Iskra's so secret a location, it doesn't even appear in LAW's most classified documents, and there I was getting data not only on the base's defense capabilities but on the intelsats that watch over it." She shook her head. "It's obvious that LAW knew what I was planning. They used me to eliminate the Scepter team." Her digitally composed figure gazed straight out of its cone of light. "I'm so sorry, Burning."

He nodded for the pickups, then pushed his long red braids from his forehead. "We should have seen it as well, Madame Haven."

Her expression remained grim. "Remember this, Allgrave: We had a hand in their deaths, but we didn't kill them. LAW killed them."

Burning nodded. "We carried out the executions with such finesse that
LAW's holding off sending a like team to Miseria Isle to do the same for us; is that it?"

Haven snorted ruefully. "LAW isn't even acknowledging that there was a raid on Iskra, Allgrave. They're blaming the deaths on a cybervirus that infiltrated the fail-safe system. Just as they did with Byron Sarz's failed attack on the Lyceum ball."

Behind Burning and to his left General "Daddy D" Delecado ran his hand over his mouth. "How many times they gonna use that excuse before people start refusing to buy it?"

Haven's figure shifted slightly. "You've been on Periapt for only two months, General. People here would rather blame a rogue virus than accept
LAW's covert executions or indeed that the Legal Annexation of Worlds subscribes to any hidden agendas. When in doubt, why blame human nature when you can so easily fault technology?"

Burning broke the long silence. "How did Mason take the news of the death of his teammates?"

Haven exhaled audibly. "It's hard to tell, what with these aphasic episodes of his. I'm actually beginning to believe the Peace Warrantors'
claim that he at some point engaged in an illegal cyberinterface. Half the time he acts like he's listening or speaking to ghosts."

Burning thought about the implants his ancestors had been forced to wear during their hundred-year enslavement to Concordance's First Landers.
Stories had been handed down of people feeling as if they were puppets operated by the implants themselves. But those stories were from a time before the Cyberplagues had reached Concordance, liberating the Exts from their implants while spreading death and wreaking havoc on nearly every human-colonized world in the galaxy.

"Is Mason in any danger from LAW?" Ghost asked.

Haven turned to face Burning's sister, whose mask of facial scars had been executed by her own hand. "Even if Mason was thought to be fully sane, his media visibility affords him protection. Perhaps when the pressgangs are done with him, he'll have to hire a team of bodyguards to watch his back.
But by then all of us will be long gone from Periapt."

"Why would LAW want the Scepter team dead?" Ghost asked, coming alongside Burning. "LAW and the Lyceum have already agreed to fund your mission to Aquamarine, so what harm could they have done at this point?"

"Precisely," Haven said. "What harm? Unless the mission LAW has seen fit to grant me is nothing more than a ruse to remove me from Periapt in the same way the Scepter team was removed from Iskra. I learned only this morning that LAW has named Buck Starkweather commissioner of the
AlphaLAW mission to Hierophant, which means that I'm going to be answering to him until Terrible Swift Sword deposits us on Aquamarine.
Anything could happen during the voyage--or once we're shuttled down the well."

"A convenient accident, huh?" Delecado said.

"I'm all but counting on one, General."

"Then your GammaLAW mission goes ahead as planned?" Burning asked after a moment.

Haven nodded. "For me it does. Whatever risks I undertake will be justified if Aquamarine offers some resolution to the Roke Conflict."

Trinity, thirty light-years from Periapt, was thought to have been the target of the as-yet-unseen aliens' most recent attack. The planet had gone silent a month earlier, though no one could say with certainty whether the Roke were to blame or whether some cosmic catastrophe had occurred. Ever in need of increased funding, LAW had been working hard to persuade Periapt to accept the former explanation.

"In light of what happened on Iskra, I won't hold the Exts to their offer to throw in with me, Burning."

Burning raised himself to his full height. "So long as the terms haven't changed--Colonel."

His use of Haven's honorific rank among the Exts wasn't lost on her. "They haven't," she said firmly. "You have my word on that. I'll send all of you home to Concordance--or wherever you want to go--parole completed, after four subjective-years."

"From what you're telling us about LAW," Delecado said, "it sounds unlikely that a relief starship will arrive in ten years, let alone four or five."

"I won't lie to you, General. A ship might not come for twenty years. But in two years' time I expect to have my own starship wrapped around the zero-point-energy drive Starkweather will be leaving us. I have no intention of being marooned on Aquamarine with the key to a human-Roke peace in my hand."

Burning pivoted so that he and Delecado could exchange glances. "Ma'am, we just might have something than can keep Starkweather from sabotaging you,"
Delecado said. "Something we liberated from Iskra after we saw what we'd done to Swope and the others."

"What is it?"

"A superconducting explosive device," Burning supplied.

"Gives all appearances of having been overlooked for decades," Daddy D
added.

Haven was clearly dumbfounded. "Talk about a bargaining chip ... but you'd have to be able to get it aboard Terrible Swift
Sword
undetected--"

"Assuming LAW doesn't realize that the device is missing, we can do that by dismantling it and concealing the modules among our own equipment."

Haven made a plosive sound. "Allgrave, if LAW had even a suspicion, you would already have joined the Scepter crew."

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