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….
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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.”
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