With his critically acclaimed military science fiction debut series, Dave Bara launched readers on a star-spanning journey of discovery, diplomacy, and danger.
Lieutenant Peter Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy believes he has his future clearly mapped out. It begins with his new assignment as an officer on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound, a Lightship bound for deep space voyages of exploration.
But everything changes when Peter is summoned to the office of his father, Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane, and given devastating news: the death of a loved one. In a distant solar system, a mysterious and unprovoked attack upon Lightship Impulse resulted in the deaths of Peter’s former girlfriend and many of her shipmates.
Now Peter's plans are torn asunder as he is transferred to a Unified Space Navy ship under foreign command, en route to an unexpected destination, and surrounded almost entirely by strangers. To top it off, his superiors have given him secret orders that might force him to become a mutineer.
The crisis at hand becomes a gateway to something much more when the ship’s Historian leads Peter and his shipmates into a galaxy of the unknown of ancient technologies, age-old rivalries, new cultures, and unexpected romance. It’s an overwhelming responsibility for Peter, and one false step could plunge humanity into an apocalyptic interstellar war….
About the Author
Dave Bara was born at the dawn of the space age and grew up watching the Gemini and Apollo space programs on television, dreaming of becoming an astronaut one day. This soon led him to an interest in science fiction on TV, in films, and in books. Dave’s writing is influenced by the many classic SF novels he has read over the years from SF authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frank Herbert, among many others.
Read an Excerpt
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES—MARCA REGISTRADA HECHO EN U.S.A.
The long walk down the hallway to my father’s office at the Admiralty had never seemed so endless. The only other time I had been here was three years ago, when I’d been told the news that my older brother Derrick had been killed in action. It was not a pleasant memory.
I pulled myself together one last time, hoping I looked presentable in my Quantar Royal Navy uniform. I hadn’t even taken the time to shave. My father’s message, when it had come, had been short and to the point.
Get here. Now.
I had grabbed my cap and uniform and rushed out of the navy barracks, hoping to catch the 0900 base shuttle across New Brisbane to the Admiralty. I shouldn’t have worried. Outside I found a ground car waiting to take me to a private flyer. From there we had streaked across the New Briz skyline, weaving between the skyscrapers with our emergency flares lit, with me trying to squeeze into my uniform inside the cramped two-seater aircar the whole time.
The call, coming just a day before I was due to be commissioned on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound as the ranking senior lieutenant and chief longscope officer, had me concerned. It couldn’t possibly be good news, and I could only hope that it wasn’t as disastrous as the news of Derrick’s death only three short years ago.
The pair of guards at the door to my father’s office faced me as I approached, ceremonial swords snapping to attention in acknowledgment of my arrival. The guard on the right sheathed his sword and pivoted, opening the door in advance of my entrance, then held it open as I passed through into the office reception area. I nodded to acknowledge the guard as I passed, then headed straight for the desk of Madrey Margretson, my father’s secretary.
Madrey had been in my father’s service for more than a decade, and I’d grown used to her pleasant smile and warm hugs during our infrequent social visits. She stood immediately as I came in, meeting me well in advance of her workstation with a worried look on her face. She waited until the guard had closed the door again before she began speaking, her tone all business.
“There’s something going on, Peter. Something serious,” she said. “Your father’s been in a conference with Admiral Wesley since before 0500. They’ve raised the alert status of both the Royal and the Union Navies in the entire system to maximum readiness.”
“Over what?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she admitted, practically whispering. “But I do know Starbound’s christening has been canceled and she’s been put on a twenty-four-hour launch clock as of 0800.”
“Is that what this is about?” I wondered aloud. She shook her head.
“I don’t know. My instructions are to see you in immediately upon your arrival. I’m not privy to the rest.” She pulled and tugged at my navy blue uniform, trying to take out the creases, and brushed it with her hands to clear off any lint. She ran a hand through my mussed black hair to smooth it and then took a step back to give me one last look when her office com chimed. “He knows you’re here,” she said. “You’d best go in.” She went around behind her desk and buzzed me in, the massive wooden double doors popping open as I stepped up.
“Be careful, Peter,” she said to me, so quiet I could barely hear her.
“I will,” I replied. Confused and more than a bit nervous at her tone, I stepped through the office doors and into my father’s office.
Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy sat behind his enormous redwood desk, his back to me as I entered. The face of Vice-Admiral Jonathon Wesley, Supreme Commander of the Unified Space Navy, was projected onto the longwave plasma viewer taking up most of the back wall. From the look of the room behind Wesley he could only be calling from his navy office on High Station Quantar, hanging three hundred miles above us in geosynchronous orbit. Wesley’s gruff voice was magnified by the longwave and tinted with a heavy New Queensland accent. It filled the room as I came in and sat down on a sofa placed against the back wall facing the screen, I hoped out of range of the viewer. I could see my father’s bald head sticking up just over the top of his office chair. From what I could glean they were in deep conversation about some sort of particulars regarding postings.
“. . . and then that should do it, Nathan. How long until you make the announcement?” asked Wesley.
“No point in waiting, Jonathon. I’ll announce it via longwave to the cadet classes at noon,” my father said. Wesley nodded twice, then looked up at me.
Not quite out of range, I thought.
“I see your son has stepped in. Time to get down to business,” Wesley said.
My father swiveled his chair just far enough to catch my eye, then gestured to one of the two chairs facing the front of his desk. I walked over and sat down, fully aware of the fact that I was on duty and my father was my superior officer. I waited for him to speak or react, and started to grow anxious as the silent moments passed. Something was very wrong.
Finally he swiveled around to face me. His desk was by far the largest I had ever seen, and my father was every inch its equal. Wesley’s oversized image peered at me from over my father’s shoulder. I felt like I was in a fishbowl.
My father pulled off his old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed deeply at his eyes. When he pulled his hand away I could see his eyes were puffy, with deep red lines running through the whites. I’d only seen him look this way once before—when my brother had died. He reset the glasses, the silver of the wire offset by the white-tinged hair at his temples. I tried to remember what he had looked like with a full head of hair, but found that I couldn’t summon the memory.
He looked down at his desktop and then up to me.
“As you may have guessed, son, there’s been some news,” he said. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. My father took in a deep breath, then exhaled.
“There’s no real way to soften this, Peter, so I’ll just come straight out with it. There’s been an attack on one of our Lightships.” I felt a lump forming in the pit of my stomach.
Admiral Wesley cut in at this. “What I’m about to tell you is classified, Lieutenant,” he started, then paused, clearing his throat roughly. “Five days ago, two shuttles from H.M.S. Impulse were on a First Contact mission to the Levant system when they were hit by a rogue hyperdimensional displacement wave that went on to hit Impulse herself. The damage was severe. Nine dead on Impulse, ten on the support shuttle and all twelve on the survey shuttle.” His words struck me like a coil rifle round to the gut. Though Impulse was officially a Union Navy vessel, she was manned almost exclusively by Carinthian Navy personnel. The survey shuttle, however, would have been manned by officers from the Quantar Navy.
“All twelve?” I asked, looking to my father and then back to Wesley. “Our First Contact team?” Wesley nodded, a grim look crossing his face. I swallowed hard. Natalie Decker, my first and only girlfriend, was a member of Impulse’s First Contact team. She’d left only six weeks ago to join the crew of Impulse. But there could be a chance—
“I’m sorry, son, Natalie Decker was on that shuttle,” my father said, cutting through my last, faint glimmer of hope. The knot in my stomach tightened even more. I leaned forward, elbows on my knees, and covered my face with my hands, fighting back tears.
Natalie and I had become close, perhaps closer than we should have allowed during our time at the Union Navy Lightship Academy. It had started innocently enough, studying in groups during late-night cramming sessions, expounding together on ethics in small group discussions and finding we had much in common. Then one night it had been just the two of us, alone in the dorm study lounge, and a long conversation about missing our family and friends back home had ended in kisses. From there, though we were always discreet, things had taken their natural course to greater intimacy. We found ourselves making time and space to be together while always keeping our training and duties foremost. She was my first lover, and I hers.
And now she was gone.
“Unfortunately, Peter,” came my father’s voice, “there’s no time for tears.” When I looked up, my father had regained his composure and sat with his hands folded on the desk. I wiped my own eyes clear and met my father’s gaze.
“Yes, sir,” I said, then took in a deep breath and let out a sigh. “Understood, sir.” My father nodded at me, pride evident in his grim smile. Wesley continued.
“Since natural HD displacement waves are extremely rare, we are assuming this was an intentional incident, either by an automated system still operating from the last war, or,” Wesley paused here, “an active attack.”
“Active?” I said, aware of the implications that statement carried with it. “The Corporate Empire?”
“Possibly,” Wesley acknowledged. “We knew when we stepped back out into interstellar space that there could be remnants of the Corporate Empire of Man still out there. This incident seems to have confirmed our worst fears.”
I thought about this. What I knew of the Corporate Empire was mostly from history classes. It had formed out of a loose coalition of planets controlled by merchant trading companies that started as a voluntary association, grew into a more formal government where participation by new colonies was encouraged with incentives, then finally became a force that was too powerful to contend against. It had grown to control nearly a hundred worlds at one point, but it was difficult to manage, and corruption was rampant. A system of royal peerage was instituted as a means of funneling responsibility through the most powerful of hands. It failed.
Then came the war.
Quantar was one of dozens of worlds that wanted out of the empire. One of my ancestors had even led the movement to form an Interstellar Republic with a constitution. This had angered the pro-Imperial families, who took up arms against the new Republic. The war raged for nearly twenty years. When it ended, at the Battle of Corant, all sides retreated back to their own systems for a century and a half, until the Historians arrived from Earth a decade ago with the gift of Lightship technology. Quantar had agreed to join with Earth and the most prominent of the pro-Imperial families, the Feilbergs of Carinthia, to form the Union. It was a fragile alliance, and never more so than now.
I turned my attention back to the conversation at hand. I wanted to talk about anything but Natalie.
“Don’t we have defensive protocols for this sort of thing?” I asked as a way of sidestepping my feelings, my loss.
“We do,” said Wesley. “Normally. But this was no normal First Contact mission.”
My father cut back in here. “Impulse was sent into Levant because our automated probes had detected hyperdimensional anomalies in the system. Her mission wasn’t just contact with the Levant government. She was also on an unofficial mission to determine whether the HD anomalies represented a potential threat to Union ships.”
“A threat which we have now established,” concluded Wesley.
I took in a deep breath, looking up at the two men I respected most in my life. “I’ve heard Starbound has been put on the launch clock. I want you to know that I and my teams are ready to go out there and face down this threat, sirs,” I said. My father shook his head.
“I’m sorry, Peter. There’s still more news, and I’m afraid it won’t make you very happy,” he said. I braced myself again. What could be worse than this?
“You won’t be reporting to Starbound, son,” he finished.
I was stunned. I had assumed we would be sending Starbound out on a rescue mission to Impulse and that I would be on her. I risked a glance up at Wesley, but his face was completely unreadable.
“But my cadet teams, we’ve been training for two years for this mission—” I started.
“That mission can be led by someone else,” cut in Wesley. “You’re needed elsewhere, Lieutenant,” he stated in a commanding tone. I was having none of this.
“Where?” I demanded of Wesley, starting to rise out of my chair. “What could be more important than serving on a rescue mission and bringing our countrymen home?” My father’s hand on my arm put me back in my chair. Wesley wasn’t my commanding officer, at least not yet. Technically we were still in different services, and I wanted answers, even if it meant pushing the limits of insubordination.
“There’s no rescue mission, Lieutenant,” said Wesley flatly. “Starbound is going out a week early as a show of force, and your new assignment is critical to the Union Navy.”
I wondered if I was being taken off the line for my own protection. Before I could ask that question, my father answered.
“You’ll be serving aboard Impulse as the senior Quantar Navy officer,” he said, snapping me back to the business at hand.
“What?” I said. I was struggling with understanding these new orders and the grief of losing Natalie all at once. “But I’m barely a lieutenant. You’re putting me in command of our navy’s mission aboard Impulse?”
My father leveled his gaze at me. “Things have changed, Peter. Your brother has been gone for three years now. Natalie is gone. The responsibilities to the family and to Quantar have now fallen on you, whether you think you’re ready or not. You’re the only remaining son of the Grand Admiral, the son of a Duke of KendalFalk, a title that you too will someday bear. The son of a man who will soon become the full-time civilian Director of Quantar,” he paused and let that sink in. He wasn’t due to leave his post at the Admiralty for another year, but now . . .
“You’ll have to step up, son, that’s all there is to it,” chimed in Wesley. “Impulse lost her XO and senior Quantar Commander on those shuttles. We’re sending you out there as a replacement, to do a job for us.”
“I don’t understand, sir,” I said, refocusing on my father. “You’re leaving the navy?”
“To take a political position, yes, son. I have no choice. If this is the empire again, and they are stronger than us, then we have to be prepared to accept that the Imperial system might be reinstated. Quantar needs a leader, and so will our new team of officers on Impulse,” he said.
“I thought you said Impulse was still in the Levant system?” I replied. It was Wesley who answered.
“Impulse docked at High Station Candle two days ago, Lieutenant,” he said. “Repairs are already underway. You’ll be on her when she heads back out, as the senior Quantar officer aboard.” I didn’t like that answer at all.
I appealed to my father. “My team has been together for three years training for this mission. Training for Starbound. And now, at the last minute, the navy is breaking us up? Why?” I said.
“Politics, son,” said my father. The word made me feel sick, but I held my anger, and my tongue. “Word will get out soon enough about the Impulse disaster, and we have to be ready with the proper response.” I looked to Wesley and then back again. I sensed his hand in this decision.
“And the proper response is sending the Grand Admiral’s son to save the Impulse mission,” I stated.
“Yes,” my father said. He leaned in toward me with his massive frame, the way he always did when he was making an important point. “We have to face the fact that this Union is not strong, Peter. The Feilberg family of Carinthia and ours were at the axis of the old conflicts which led to the civil war and the collapse of the Corporate Empire. We can’t risk that happening again. Remember, it was a century and a half of darkness before the Earth Historians came to Quantar and Carinthia. If they hadn’t brought longwave technology and the Hoagland Drive we’d still be without a peace treaty.”
“I know my history, Father,” I said, rather more pointedly than I would have liked.
“Then you know we can’t risk this new Union failing,” he said. “Your presence on Impulse will send the strongest possible signal that we intend to stay in the Union for the long term.”
I mulled this over for a moment, and didn’t like what came to mind. “So I’m to be a political replacement, and the three years I’ve trained to serve on Starbound mean far less than my being seen as working with the Carinthians on their flagship,” I said.
“Exactly,” said Wesley from the longwave screen. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but considering the situation, you’ll have to grow up much faster than you’d planned.”
“I’m sorry as well, Peter,” said my father. “I know how much you were looking forward to serving with your friends.” That was true enough. But now it seemed fate had dealt me a different hand, one to a game I hadn’t even known I was playing.
“What’s the current status of Impulse?” I asked, changing the subject again. At least I could find out what I was facing. Wesley responded.
“Captain Zander has requested a minimum turnaround at Candle. He wants permission to go back to Levant and investigate the rogue HD waves,” he said. “Lucius Zander is a man of many virtues, but patience is not one of them. If his ship was attacked by a First Empire weapon, he will want to take that weapon out. The Unified Space Navy’s top priority is peaceful contact with the government of Levant and protecting the Lightship fleet. Zander is known as a passionate commander, if not a bit of a hothead. His actions once Impulse is back at Levant and he is in a combat situation are something we can’t control. That’s why the new detachment of Quantar officers is so important. Your team’s task will be to shadow him and if possible deter him from his efforts to confront any First Empire weapon.”
“Our task?” I sat there in disbelief, my anger growing at the implications of Wesley’s words. “Exactly how are we to accomplish this task, sir?”
“Any way you can, Lieutenant,” said Wesley. I looked to my father and then back to Wesley’s image on the display.
“You’re asking us to mutiny,” I said. Wesley cut in sharp and angry.
“We’re asking you to put your oath to the Union Navy above loyalty to your commanding officer,” he said. “I’m not pretending it will be easy, but we expect you to protect Impulse, even with your own lives if you have to make that decision. The three ships in the Lightship fleet are all that stand between the Union and the tyranny of the old empire. If Levant is still defended by First Empire technology then we must avoid a conflict, or for that matter even contact, with Imperial elements at any cost. Do you understand your orders, Lieutenant?”
I looked to my father again. He was grim but silent.
“I do, sir,” I said to Wesley.
“Questions?” he prompted sharply. I shook my head.
“Good,” Wesley said, preparing to bring the conference to a close. I interrupted before he could finish.
“I’ll want some of my cadet instructors with me on this mission, people I’ve worked with and know that I can trust,” I said to Wesley. I may have been under new orders, but I still had cards to play. Wesley looked aggravated at me for interrupting him.
“I’ll need names, Lieutenant,” he said back impatiently.
“George Layton for one. John Marker for another,” I said, naming my best helm officer and marine corporal. “I’ll need a tech, Brice Devlin should do. Cort Drury from Propulsion, and Evangeline Goolagong as my Intel officer.”
“Anyone else?” asked Wesley, obviously impressed with my forwardness.
“Yes,” I said. “Jenny Hogan from Astrogation.”
“No,” cut in my father.
“But she’s the best we’ve got,” I insisted, and it was true. She also happened to be Wesley’s niece.
“She may be,” said Wesley over the viewer. “But I’ve got someone else in mind for that job.” I wondered who he meant, but that didn’t stop me from pressing him.
“So this mission is safe enough for the director’s son but not the supreme commander’s niece?” I said back to Wesley. He fumed in silence, turning different shades of red as he stared down at me from the oversized view screen, but I held my ground.
“Granted,” he finally said. “I’ll fill the rest of the roster with experienced spacers, Lieutenant. You won’t want for good advice.” I nodded. There was really nothing more to say.
“There is one more thing,” said my father. He slid a box across the table to me. I opened the top. Inside, swimming in royal blue velvet, were two lieutenant commander’s collar pins. “They belonged to your brother.”
They’re giving me Derrick’s stars, I thought.
“This assignment comes with a promotion,” said Wesley from the screen. “I know it’s a small consolation.” He was right about that. I shut the box again and stuck it in my pocket, then looked to each man in turn.
“When do I leave?” I asked. It was Wesley who spoke again. It seemed very clear to me now who was in charge of this mission.
“Effective at midnight tonight your commission is transferred from H.M.S. Starbound to H.M.S. Impulse. You have two hours to pack your gear and catch a shuttle to High Station Quantar, where you will have a forty-eight hour layover while you wait for transport. From there you will proceed to High Station Candle on the cloud rim and will report to the deck of Impulse, under the command of Captain Lucius Zander, at 0700 hours on twelve-dot-two-seven-dot-two-seven-six-eight. Do you understand your orders, Commander?” he said. It was the first time he had used my new rank.
I roused myself from my funk and stood, snapping to attention. “I do, sir,” I said. He nodded his response.
“Now I’ll leave the two of you to finish your visit in privacy,” he said. “Good luck to you, Commander Cochrane.”
“Thank you, Admiral,” I said. Wesley nodded to my father and then the screen went to black, superimposed with the seal of the Quantar Naval Linkworks. My father turned off the viewer with the click of a button.
“I’m so sorry about all this, Peter,” he said as I sat back down, sinking heavily into the chair, the weight of all that had just happened hitting me hard.
“No need to apologize, sir,” I replied.
“I think there is,” he said. Silence came over both of us then. I thought about Natalie, about how young and beautiful she had been. I had reconciled myself to losing her to the service months ago once I knew her assignment, but not permanently. Then thoughts of Derrick came. It had been his death in a shuttle accident, training new cadets, that had shocked me out of my immature pursuit of a professional soccer career and driven my decision to join the Union Navy and the Lightship Program. I had fought hard to get in, and made it on my own merit, but my mission now seemed somehow incomplete. I fingered the box with my—no, Derrick’s—commander’s stars inside. I wondered if somehow I had failed him by not making it to Starbound.
I fought off a wave of sadness as I looked at my father. We were both holding back tears as we sat in the quiet of the enormous office. I couldn’t imagine what he had felt, having lost his wife, my mother, to cancer such a short time after the Historians had arrived from Earth. And of course they had both the knowledge and technology that could have cured her, but contact had come too late. Then he had lost his oldest son, the one he had staked all of his hopes and dreams on, and he was left with only me. I wondered if I even came close to Derrick in his mind. By my own measure I didn’t. How could I? I had chosen the life of a second son, filled with sports and games and casual pursuits. Derrick had followed our father’s path from the day he was born: the duty of a duke’s son, the military and civil training, always focused on what was expected of him. I vowed in that moment, looking at my father, that I would do everything in my power to be the son that he wanted, the son that he needed to succeed him.
Finally my father spoke and broke the silence. “These are difficult and complex times, Peter,” he said. “I was just thinking that before the Earthmen came with their technology and their science we led a much simpler life. Things changed so suddenly when I saw the Earth ships approaching Quantar. Our universe was smaller then, less complicated.”
“Of course, sir,” I said, unsure how to react. He leaned back in his chair.
“Those were good times, hopeful. Just you and Derrick and your mother and I. Now there’s only the two of us left,” he said, looking at me again. “I don’t want to lose you too.”
“You won’t, sir. I promise,” I said. I meant it down to my core.
My father accepted my promise silently, then he stood and came around the desk to hug me. He held on tightly for several moments before he let me go.
“Good luck, son. You’re all I have now. I know you’ll make us all proud,” he said. I knew what he meant by all: all of the family, here or gone, and all the Cochranes of Quantar that had come before me. I took his offered hand and shook it.
“I will do my best, sir,” I said, then broke the handshake. I acknowledged the conversation was over with a nod, picked up my cap and turned to leave. When I got to the office door I opened it and then stopped to look back at my father. He was sitting behind the desk again, gazing out of the window at the New Briz skyline. The sight of such a strong and forceful man reduced to such a state filled me with fear and anxiety. It’s all on me now, I thought.
I stepped over the threshold without another word and shut the door behind me.
On High Station
Eight hours later, after a frantic packing session and a hypersonic plane ride from New Briz Airfield I was on High Station, in the quarters of Starbound’s assigned Earth Historian, Serosian. After throwing my bags onto my temporary bunk, I’d made my way here to be with my friend and mentor, hoping for some consolation and perhaps some wisdom from him as well.
I had spent many hours in Serosian’s company during my three years of Academy training. He had taken me under his wing as his pet project upon my enlistment, for which I had always been grateful. I had known him a bit before—he had been Derrick’s mentor as well—but not in anything more than a passing way. It seemed that I had always been off on some soccer foray or a social expedition with my friends when he had come calling. Then one day he’d arrived at my father’s house with the worst possible news. We had talked that day, about what I don’t remember; I was too numb, in too much pain. But I did remember calling on him a few weeks later and telling him of my desire to enlist in the Lightship service. It was the best decision of my life.
After that, there had been many long nights debating ethics and tactics, discussing military history, the battles during the Imperial Civil War and my struggles with my assignments, and relaxing, when I had time, with a game of chess. It was at the chess table that we found ourselves again today, pondering a game we would probably never finish.
“Chess is like mathematics,” Serosian had once said. “Everything in the universe is an expression of physical laws, which ultimately break down to numbers.” I wasn’t sure I completely agreed with him. After all, how does one quantify or express emotions such as love, or for that matter, grief, in numerical terms? It was a question I had never asked and he would probably never choose to answer, even if he had one.
He had often told me that chess was his way of testing young cadets, to see if they could think critically and logically, yet also remain open to intuition and more esoteric influences. I’d asked him once why he had chosen to mentor me, besides my obvious family connections. His answer was simple: I was the first cadet who had ever beaten him at the game.
I pondered the formations on the board, my pieces always the white, his always the black. I had a bishop and four of his pawns, he a rook and three of my pawns. I wondered what the odds were of my winning, even if I did look to have a small advantage. From the positions on the board I put my chances at less than fifty-fifty.
“You won’t win,” Serosian said from across the room as he poured himself another glass of wine. “In case you were wondering. In fact I make the odds only thirty-three percent you’ll manage a draw.” He recorked the wine bottle and made for his chair opposite me at the table, scanning the formations. “You’ve already made one critical tactical mistake,” he continued as he came back to our game.
“Yes,” I replied, “that would be signing up for the naval service.” He laughed at that, surprisingly loud for a man who had such a quiet, if deep, voice. Looking at us one would probably have assumed we were more brothers than mentor and student. We shared the same dark hair and deep blue eyes, as well as a similar set to the jaw. Serosian appeared perhaps a decade older and was a head taller than I, and I stood a firm six-foot-two in height myself. I knew the appearance of my friend was not an accurate measure of his age, however. The anti-aging regimens of the Earthmen had not yet been shared with either Quantar or the Feilberg family of Carinthia, and I suspected Serosian was close to twenty years older than he looked.
“I’ve been wondering about that choice,” he said in response to my verbal foray, then made an advancing move with a pawn. “You could have chosen any career you wanted. Diplomatic Corps, the Merchant Fleet, even professional soccer from what I remember.”
I responded by moving one of my knights. “We’re a navy family, you know that. Derrick was an influence, of course. And besides all that, what career could offer me more than exploring deep space and rediscovering our lost heritage, a lost human empire?”
“Not many, I’d venture,” he said, then made an attacking move with his queen. “I’ll have you checkmated in five moves.”
I smiled. “Remember your telling me about how important intuition is?” I said, then took his king’s rook with my queen and put him in check. He frowned.
“Well, it looks like this game could go on a bit longer than I anticipated,” he said. “No matter, we’ve other things to discuss.”
“Yes we do,” I said, and took another drink of my wine. Serosian magnetized the tabletop with the click of a button and then flipped it over to conceal the chess set. I took another drink of my wine, a shiraz from the Caderlands, then set my glass down.
“How are you feeling, Peter?” he asked. I contemplated his question for a moment. I wasn’t really sure what I felt, but I did think I owed him an answer.
“Right now, numb,” I said.
“The wine helps with that,” he replied.
“Of course it does. But all day I’ve felt shock, anger, resignation, depression, more anger, the whole gamut.”
“That’s only normal. Natalie was a special girl.”
“These circumstances are anything but normal,” I replied. “First Derrick, now Natalie . . .” I looked down as my voice trailed off. “How many more times will I have to go through this?” I asked.
He didn’t have a ready answer, so we sat together for a moment, each of us contemplating his glass of wine. “All I can say, Peter, is that space is a dangerous place. There will be pitfalls and failures and even disasters, but it is rare to lose two people so close to you in such a short time. You are unique in that.”
“That gives me no comfort,” I said, then turned a keener eye on my friend. He was as dark and unreadable as ever, the kind of man who never let anything slip out by accident.
“If I can make a suggestion?” he said.
“Perhaps it would help if you had a small memorial for Natalie before you left, with your close associates who knew her. Take some time to honor her and your love for her before you go.”
“You know I don’t believe the same way you do, Serosian, the way the Church teaches,” I said.
“You don’t have to have any specific beliefs to honor her and your loss, Peter. Just know in your heart that by your act you are honoring her memory.”
I thought about that a moment, and couldn’t really find any objections to it. In fact, it seemed like a good idea. “I believe I’ll take your advice,” I said, “Get Marker, Layton, the rest of the crew reporting for Impulse involved. Hopefully they’ll all be here by tonight. But if I know Marker, he’ll want to honor her with more than a quiet memorial.”
Serosian smiled. “Then perhaps you should do both.”
“I don’t feel much like painting the station red right now,” I said. He cocked his head at me.
“You’re young. It may be the last time in a long while you get to enjoy yourself. I recommend joining in, if you can manage it,” he said.
I thought about it some more. Marker would undoubtedly want to drink heavily. In some ways, it didn’t seem like such a bad idea. And I did have another full day before my shuttle to High Station Candle would arrive. I changed the subject without giving any final answer.
“You invited me here to warn me, didn’t you?” I said. “About Impulse. About Captain Zander.” He nodded without saying anything for a moment, so I continued. “Do you know they’ve asked me to mutiny if I have to, to protect Impulse?” I said. He shook his head.
“That detail I didn’t know, but it doesn’t surprise me, knowing Admiral Wesley as I do,” he said.
“He’s certainly loyal to the navy,” I said. Serosian’s frown from the chess match returned.
“That’s his one great fault, Peter,” he said. “He’s probably too old to adjust to the new paradigm. We all have to work together to succeed: Quantar, Earth, and Carinthia. The Union Compact is still very new and very, very tenuous. Things could break down at any time if the empire reasserts itself.”
“I know my father trusts him.” That elicited a sidelong glance.
“Indeed,” he said, then let my statement lie. “I am sorry about the situation they’ve put you in, but in light of the attack at Levant, it’s probably a sound policy.”
“And what about the Historian aboard Impulse? What do you know of him or her?” The frown remained on Serosian’s face.
“He’s from a different school than I am,” he finally said, as if that was enough.
“Different school? What do you mean?” I asked. Serosian seemed reluctant to answer, but did anyway.
“There are those of us in the Historian Order that believe that humanity is best served when each individual is allowed to fulfill his utmost potential. We believe in nurturing and growing our charges, the ‘taking under the wing’ idea. That’s why I chose to mentor you, and Derrick before you. But there is another school of thought, another sect, that believes humanity is best served when individuals are sublimated to humanity as a whole, when the needs of the collective human society are put first. They believe that too much individualism, too much diversity, led to a breakdown of societal norms in the empire and created an atmosphere where corruption was allowed to become rampant as all behavior by individuals was rationalized. They think this led to the collapse of the Corporate Empire. They want humankind to be tested as much as possible, to be pushed and prodded into group action and knocked down when they fail the community or fall short of expectations. It’s a delicate balance between the two philosophies, and the Church does not favor one over the other. Tralfane is of the latter school. He will push you in every way, Peter, and it will not be pleasant,” he finished.
I took some time to soak this all in, as it was new knowledge to me. “I appreciate your honesty,” I said, then turned my attention to the matters at hand. I eyed my friend. “This attack, is it the First Empire?” I asked.
“Unknown at this time,” he said without hesitating, as if he expected the question. “Initial analysis of the Hoagland Wave indicates that it doesn’t match any known First Empire frequencies. That could be because we don’t have it in our catalog, or because it’s a new type of wave. Either way I need the telemetry from Impulse to be certain.”
“But if it’s not the First Empire, in one form or another, then who could it be?” I asked.
Serosian’s face went grim. “There could be other forces at work here,” he said.
“Other forces?” I was surprised by the implication. “You mean the Sri? I thought your order wiped them out in the civil war.” Serosian had told me many stories about the secret war between the Church of the Latter Days and the Sri during First Empire times.
“It’s true that their home world of Altos was attacked during the war, but it was never destroyed, at least not militarily,” he said. “We don’t know where they went. It’s always possible some of them survived on Corant, or perhaps on some other world.”
The knot in my stomach returned at the mention of the old Imperial capital. Corant was said to be a mythic world of gold and bronze, of crystal lakes and flowing rivers, with only one major city. There was no industry allowed, everything was imported to the capital from other worlds in the empire. The countryside was said to be made up of massive estates for the wealthiest and most loyal of the emperor’s vassals. So it was said.
The Sri themselves were another issue altogether. They were reputed to be a secret society of technological wizards that used their knowledge to make humans more like machines than men. The Church had outlawed their technology as unnatural and spent considerable assets to see that it was destroyed during the civil war. Apparently, they weren’t as successful as the histories liked to portray.
“And if they are out there, what will they be like?” I asked.
Serosian’s face became an emotionless mask that I couldn’t read. “Pure science, with no accounting for the spiritual. Technology for technology’s sake,” he said. “It’s a materialistic universe view, cold and soulless, and one that leads to enslavement.” His hand went to his chin in contemplation as I waited for more. “If the Sri are out there, Peter, then they are far more dangerous than a revived empire. And if the Union cannot defend against them, then the Church will have to act.”
“Act? What does that mean?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“To destroy them, at any cost,” he said. I didn’t want to ask the next question, but I had to.
“And what about us? The Union worlds?” I said. “What if we just ‘get in the way’ of your private little war with the Sri?” Serosian averted his eyes from mine.
“The technologies that could be unleashed on the universe . . .” he started, then trailed off. “The weapons . . .” he hesitated again, and then shook his head. “This is why you must succeed, Peter, why the Lightship missions are so important. Any other scenario is unthinkable.”
“And if the Sri are in league with a revived empire?” I asked. He leaned forward and met my eyes.
“If the First Empire still exists out there and it is under Sri influence, then none of us are safe,” he said. “Watch your back, Peter. The heir to the seat of Quantar would be a welcome target for either of those potential enemies.”
I nodded. “And what about this Captain Zander?” I asked.
“What of him?”
“He led Impulse directly into the attack that killed Natalie and my countrymen. Should I trust him? Should I hate him?”
Serosian contemplated me. “Whatever happened at Levant was no accident. Don’t hate a man you’ve never met for Natalie’s loss. Hate the ones who killed her with their machines. Hate the empire, Peter.”
Then he stood up and walked away from the table and went to the window, staring out at the shining globe of Quantar.
I took another drink of my wine and contemplated what I had gotten myself into.
Exploring High Station
By evening, only George Layton and John Marker had arrived from my select team of cadet instructors, so I rounded them both up for the impromptu memorial service for Natalie and the others. I sent out a general announcement on the station com band, and by the time we gathered at 2000 hours about two dozen Quantar officers and enlisted ended up joining us. I was forced to lead the service, both by my rank and by my standing in Quantar society. I said the few words I could manage and we all lit a candle for those lost, followed by twelve minutes of silence, one for each of the lost souls. During that time I thought of Natalie, and then Derrick, and how much I had lost in such a short time.
At the end, each of the participants placed their candles on a makeshift altar I had prepared one by one, some adding photos of their friends who had been lost. When the crowd was gone I blew all the candles out, but I left the memorial where it was.
As I walked away with Marker and Layton I tried to clear my head and connect with what I was actually feeling. The fact was that I had emotionally broken from Natalie a few months ago, when she had first learned of her new assignment. We were being forced to separate by military necessity, so I knew we had to draw the line on our personal relationship as well. She didn’t like it and neither did I, but we stuck to it. Now it felt like once I had turned my emotions off, I wasn’t sure I knew how to turn them back on again.
Marker insisted we go out on our last free night together and Layton agreed, so in the end I was forced into carousing about the station. We hit several bars and restaurants, but eventually we ended up at a standing table at our favorite hangout, Paddy’s Pub on the tourist deck, drinking our last beers together as cadets. From here on out it was going to be all business.
Corporal John Marker was a huge man with caramel-colored skin, an inheritance of his mixed descent from the aboriginal peoples of the Australian continent on Earth. I’d always wanted to tease him that I thought he looked more Maori than Aussie, but he was far too big to give stick to, and I was smart enough not to go there. Layton was like me, as Earth-English as they come and white-skinned as sheep’s wool.
Marker was twenty-six, old for the cadet corps, and two years older than Layton, who was a year older than me. I had just turned twenty-three the previous month, so this was my last official drinking binge before assuming my station on Impulse. I’d come into the Lightship program two years late, but I made up for it by doubling up on my classes and finishing in three years instead of four. And becoming valedictorian of the class in the end, of course.
Marker raised his glass of stout. “For Natalie,” he said. Layton and I repeated the toast, and I drank from my pint of beer. It was bitter for me in more ways than one.
“We’re both sorry about this, Peter,” Marker said. I nodded.
“Thank you both,” I said. “Natalie was special to me, so we have to make sure we honor her with our performance on Impulse.”
“Agreed,” said Layton. “I just wish we were getting our first assignment on Starbound.”
“We all do,” I said, taking another swig of my beer. “But this mission is critical to the Union, and our performance is critical to Quantar. I’ll miss Starbound too, and the adventures we could have had aboard her.”
Marker stirred at this, and I could see the alcohol was starting to get to him. He’d been drinking far more than Layton or I had.
“And here’s to Starbound,” he said, loud enough for everyone in the pub to hear. “The finest ship in the Union!” The whole pub raised their glasses at that one.
“Here, here!” said Layton and I, lifting our beers and clacking them with Marker’s. I was sticking to bitter, but Layton was going adventurous with a brown Belgian ale. Marker was strictly a stout man. We all killed our beers and then Marker called to the bartender for more.
“I can’t believe they’re breaking us up,” said Layton in the intervening moment.
“Believe it,” chimed in Marker. “That goddamned Wesley’s a pillock. All he cares about is keeping his nose up the Carinthians’ arses. As long as they’re happy he keeps his job.”
“Here, here!” said Layton, raising his empty glass just as the serving girl brought more. Layton tipped her heavily and then patted her gently on the bottom as she walked away. She turned and smiled back at him.
“I’ll have that one eating out of my hands by midnight,” he said. Marker looked down at him through glazed eyes.
“It’s already 0030 hours, idiot,” he said. I had to laugh at that. Layton took the insult affably enough and then turned his attention to me.
“Do the bloody Carinthians even drink beer?” he asked.
“I think they invented it,” I quipped back, taking another big swig from my glass. Marker laughed so hard he snorted.
“Well, here’s to ’em then,” he said, taking yet another drink. On cue, three officers in Carinthian green came into the pub and made their way straight to the bar. One was an older gray-haired officer that I took for station staff, another a young red-haired man of ensign rank, and the third was an athletic-looking woman with the rank of commander.
“She’s pretty,” said Layton as the three Carinthians doffed their berets and started drinking in a corner of the bar. I watched her as she brushed out her regulation-cut hair with her hand and took a drink of a very dark beer. She was indeed pretty, but not overly so. I caught her taking a quick glance in my direction and nodding at me. I quickly looked away, not wanting to be seen staring at her.
Marker’s booming voice interrupted my surreptitious observations.
“You know, Commander,” he said, elbowing me playfully, his voice starting low but then rising. “You know goddamned well I’d follow you to the steps of the Emperor’s palace!” he said, raising his glass. “If the goddamned Union Navy gave us half a chance!”
“I know, John,” I said, trying to quiet him down. “I’m looking forward to having you both aboard Impulse.”
“Well, I hope the cod-eating Carinthian Navy know what they’re getting!” he said, practically yelling now. The bar was noisy but more and more patrons were paying attention to Marker’s vocal exercises, especially the three Carinthians. He put his arm around me and started in again, this time in the clear direction of the Carinthian officers.
“This here’s the best goddamned cadet graduate in the fleet,” he said, tapping my chest repeatedly with his index finger while slopping beer on the floor. “Name’s Cochrane. Peter Cochrane, and you’d better respect that!” he said, the slurring of his words increasing. “You’re gettin’ our bess!” Then he wrapped me in a huge bear hug.
“Thanks, John,” I said, while waving apologetically to the Carinthians as Marker refused to let me go. The older officer looked miffed and the ensign had a disapproving look on his face, but the woman smiled a bit at me, more out of sympathy than anything else, I guessed.
“George, why don’t you see if you can help me get John here back to his bunk,” I said. Marker was still draped all over me.
“Sure thing,” said Layton. He took one arm while I took the other.
“Perhaps you could use some help with your friend?” said a husky female voice from behind me. I looked around to see the Carinthian commander standing behind me.
“Um, sure,” I said, pleased that she had come over to make my acquaintance, but worried about the circumstances. I was in fact quite unsure of how she could help with a man of Marker’s size. She was around five-foot-seven from my guess, clearly in good shape but I couldn’t say she was more than a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet. Marker was a hundred more than that, easily, and he was starting to sway like a badly designed bridge.
“You’re a cutie,” he said to her.
She ignored him, smiling, and then turned to the young ensign from her group and waved him over. He put down his beer with a look of great distaste and reluctantly came over to our table. Without a word he slid in next to me and took my place. At first I didn’t understand what was happening until he and Layton started walking the now-quiet Marker out of the pub. When I turned back the staff officer was gone and I was alone with the Carinthian commander.
“Um, what just happened?” I said.
“Your friend looked like he need some help home. In the interests of interplanetary unity I thought I would offer my ensign as assistance,” she said. I smiled.
“I see,” I said. “And your other friend?” She turned to look at the empty space near the bar where he had been standing a moment ago and shrugged.
“Probably home to his wife, I’d guess,” she said. I picked up my beer as she pointed to a booth that had opened up.
“Perhaps we could get better acquainted?” I opened a path with a sweep of my hand and then followed the commander to the booth and sat down. She slid in across from me with her beer glass in hand. I noticed she also had a double shot glass with some kind of chaser.
I extended my hand. “I’m Peter Cochrane,” I said.
“So I gathered from your friend. Pleased to meet you, Commander Peter Cochrane,” she said, gripping my hand firmly in reply for a few seconds. As I pulled back, my fingers went to my new collar pins nervously, then I took a drink of my bitter. I had two full stars, she had three.
“And whom do I have the pleasure of sharing this drink with?” I said, trying to open up the conversation.
“I’m Dobrina Kierkopf, Commander, Royal Carinthian Navy, class of ’74,” she said. The same year that Derrick had graduated from our Academy. That would make her twenty-six, three years older than me. I took another sip of my beer to calm my nerves.
“Pleased to meet you, Commander,” I said. “Kierkopf? Is that Carinthian?” I asked out of curiosity.
“Actually it’s Slovenian,” she said back. “We have a plurality of German ancestry on our world, with large mixes of other nationalities from Central Europe on Old Earth.”
“Ah, fascinating,” I said. Then without thinking I blurted out: “So, Commander, what brings you to High Station?” She smiled silently for a moment as I got redder and redder. It was an innocent enough question . . .
“That sounds like a pickup line, Commander. Do you use it often on superior officers?”
I swallowed hard, embarrassed at how my question had come out. “Forgive me, Commander, I didn’t mean to imply—”
“Oh, so you don’t find me attractive?” she cut in, a very stern look on her face. “Am I too old for you?”
“Certainly not, ma’am! It’s just, I didn’t—” She laughed hard and then covered her mouth as she giggled. “You’re playing me,” I said.
“Guilty,” she said, then took a drink of her stout. I did my best shy-young-officer impression then and matched her with a drink of my bitter.
“You really should switch to something more robust,” she said as I had a mouth full of beer. It took me a second to respond in kind.
“No thank you, madam,” I said. “I’ve tried that motor oil before and once was enough!”
“You’re sure?” she asked. I nodded.
“Then maybe I could interest you in trying some of this.” She slid the double shot glass across the table to me. “It’s a family favorite back home, especially in New Wurzburg, where I’m from,” she said.
I looked down at the nearly full shot glass. The drink was clear with a slight green tinge and looked harmless enough. She sat and waited patiently, her hands clasped together.
“Aren’t you up for the challenge, Commander Peter Cochrane of Quantar?” she said, teasing me. I had no intention of backing down now. I took the glass in a swift and casual motion. Raising it to my lips, I hesitated only a second before taking an ill-advisedly large drink. For a second I tasted the pleasant flavors of apple and pear mixed together, then the viscous fluid started burning my lips and tongue. It crawled down my esophagus like a worm on fire. I coughed and choked, my eyes watering as I struggled to catch a breath of air without burning my lungs.
“My . . . God!” I choked out, “What is that?” She reached across the table and snatched the glass from my hand, then downed the rest of it, more than half a glass full, in one quick gulp, snapping her head back at the finish and exhaling.
“We call it schnapps,” she said in a normal tone of voice. I was still coughing. “As I said, a family favorite back home.”
“I’m glad I’m not in your family,” I said. She smiled wryly.
“Yes, well, I should answer your original question, Commander,” she said.
“I’ve forgotten what it was,” I said, wiping my mouth with my uniform sleeve. “But go ahead.”
“You asked what brought me to High Station. I’ve been assigned as a strategic attaché for the Carinthian Navy for the last three months, although my commission has recently been transferred to the Union Navy Command.”
“I see,” I said, finally recovering from the schnapps. “Now I suppose you’ll want to hear all about me?” To my surprise, she shook her head no.
“No need. You were born the second son of the Grand Admiral of the Quantar navy, who will soon be retiring to assume the honorary title of Director of Quantar. Since the untimely death of your brother in a Union Navy accident, you are now first in line to succeed to the chair after your father, should it ever be offered by the empire again. Your official title is Viscount of Queensland, but when your father becomes Director you’ll become Duke of KendalFalk. You’ve just graduated at the top of your class of thirty-six cadets as a certified longscope officer, and your aptitude rating was off the charts. Your best friend is the Earth Historian, Serosian, who will stay with Starbound, and you’ll be serving under Captain Lucius Zander aboard H.M.S. Impulse beginning in a couple of days. Did I miss anything?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, then thought about Derrick and how I had come to be in my current position. In many ways I didn’t feel worthy, but that was something to deal with at another time.
I was a bit taken aback by her knowledge of me, and somewhat offended. It was clear she had extensive information on me and my family, some of it high-ranking intelligence. I didn’t much like being put on the defensive and she had certainly done that. Frankly, I was more than a bit angry. “You Carinthians don’t miss much, do you?” I said as I finished my bitter and then stood to go without saying anything more, my evening’s fun waning. She tapped the table.
“Please stay,” she said.
“Is that an order, Commander?”
I sat, letting her know by the look on my face that I was upset with the direction of the conversation. “I’m afraid I don’t like having my private life so . . . well known,” I said. She sighed, in sympathy, I thought.
“I don’t believe you have a private life anymore, Commander. That’s something you’d better get used to,” she said. I contemplated her. Clearly she was much more knowledgeable about me than I was comfortable with, and the conversation seemed as if it had been arranged. I wondered if she knew about Natalie and my relationship with her, and what had happened with Impulse at Levant.
“In earlier times between us you would have been thought a spy,” I said. She tilted her head slightly at me.
“Those times are over, Cochrane. What happened in a war fought a century and a half before we were born has no effect on us or how we behave. Quantar and Carinthia are allies and equal members of the Union,” she said. I waved off the serving girl as she came past our booth. I’d had quite enough alcohol and quite enough of being lectured.
“As you said, madam, a war fought so long ago shouldn’t affect us today. But you should also know that wounds can take a long time to heal, especially fresh ones.” I thought of Natalie again then, and for the first time I began to feel a great sadness at her loss. There was an awkward silence as we sat together. I had no idea what she knew or didn’t know about me, and at that point I didn’t care. I just wanted a graceful exit from the conversation.
Then she broke through the silence in a quite unexpected way.
“Do you fence?” she asked. I was surprised by the question.
“Fence? Well, I suppose so. I took a quarter of it at the Academy.”
“Excellent! I’ve been looking for a partner all week. No one seems interested in taking me on. Are you game?” She leaned forward as she said the last. I was a bit taken aback by her aggressiveness; that was something new in a woman for me. I found it intriguing, and she had certainly shaken me out of my funk.
“Well if no one on High Station will offer you the honor of a challenge, then I must accept. For Quantar, of course,” I said. I also thought the exercise would do me some good after the stress of the last few days.
“Of course,” she smiled widely. “You’re a brave young man, taking on a challenge so quickly without even knowing your opponent. So tell me, how did you do in your fencing class at the Academy?”
“I ended up sixth,” I responded.
“Ah, so you have some skill then! Excellent!” she said again, then got up suddenly to take her leave. “I have a court reserved at 0700 tomorrow, or should I say today, on the recreation deck. Don’t be late.” She said the last as if it were an order. I looked at my watch.
“But it’s nearly 0100 already and I’ve been drinking all night!” I protested. She smiled again, turned to go, then turned halfway back.
“Oh, and, Cochrane, I should probably mention I was Champion my final year at the Academy.”
“Academy Champion?” I asked through the fog of my beer. She shook her head negatively.
“World Champion,” she said. I swallowed hard.
“Carinthian World Champion?” I asked.
She just smiled again.
“See you at 0700.”
Fencing with Dobrina
I got up early and arrived at the rec deck by 0630, thankfully nursing only a slight hangover from my previous evening’s adventure. After confirming which court Commander Kierkopf had reserved, I checked out a fencing suit and mask and sorted through the foils, finally settling on one that I hoped would help me to use my weight and muscle to advantage. After dressing I scurried out to the court, ten minutes early.
Commander Kierkopf was already there, stretching and flexing her foil.
“Good to see you, Commander,” she said, smiling like a predator smiles at its prey. “I was worried you weren’t going to show.”
I shrugged the barb off. “Good to see you as well, Commander Kierkopf.” I swallowed a last shot of my hydrating drink, then motioned to the starting marks with a wave of my hand and an affected bow, hoping courtesy, no matter how disingenuous, would serve me well. She donned her mask without another word and took her mark with practiced ease. I stepped up slowly, dipped my leading foot in talc, secured my mask, and took my mark, left hand leading.
“I didn’t know you were left-handed,” she said, noting my stance with interest and stepping back from her mark while feigning an adjustment to her glove. No doubt this was merely a tactic to allow her to reassess her original strategy. I too stepped off my mark as a courtesy and circled briefly.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this book. If you are looking for hard science fiction with extreme depth, then keep looking, but if you are looking for an exciting fast-paced space opera with great action and tons of excitement, then here you go. IMPULSE was just what I needed. I had just gone through a short story binge and we all know how character driven short story sci-fi usually is, so I found myself craving some space faring action and I definitely got what I was looking for! Great read for anyone in an action mood! Can't wait for the next ones!
Well written kept me revitived
Frustratingly sub par.
The characters were okay, the plot was unrealistic, and the author couldn't decide what to do with anyone. It held early promise, but it was ultimately unsatisfying.
In this novel the hero who is fresh out of the academy is promoted to leutenant commander. That was the first stretch of reality that was hard to take. Then this same hero shows skills way beyond his age, experience, and training to accomplish things even the most competent experienced naval officer is unlikely to be able to do. The charactors were shallow and the plot seemed to be randomly put together. It was like a B movie in print. This is the second book I have read from this author. I should have taken a clue from the first novel I read from this author and skipped this one.
Finished it in two days