Kris Longknife “can kick, shoot, and punch her way out of any dangerous situation,”* and her latest adventure in the New York Times bestelling series is as perilous as they come...
Despite her role as a fleet Admiral and protector of a planetary system, Kris is still beholden to her great grandfather King Raymond’s commands. She has been personally selected for a mission that, should she succeed, will save millions of lives.
The Peterwald Empire is in the midst of civil war. On one side is the tyrannical Empress, on the other is the last person Kris ever wants to see again—Grand Duchess Vicky Peterwald. Due to their shared history, the Emperor believes Kris can mediate between the factions and bring about peace.
But before Kris even begins her mission, she survives multiple assassination attempts on her family home world. Someone doesn’t want her interfering in the Empire’s affairs. Kris immediately suspects Vicky or the Empress, only to learn that it could also be a traitor among her own people...
*Sci Fi magazine
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Admiral, Her Royal Highness Kris Longknife did her best to cut her corners as she'd been taught in those long ago days at Officer Candidate School. But then, Gunny had never suggested how you managed the correct military entry with a bundle such as Kris cradled in her left arm.
The unholy trinity were waiting for her.
Kris came to a halt before the middle one, Field Marshal McMorrison, Chief of Staff for the entire military of the United Society. She saluted, bringing her hand right up her gig line-as much as she could without bopping that tiny bundle.
"Admiral Kris Longknife reporting as ordered," she said, more to her great-grandfather Ray, King Raymond I to most, seated in the guest's chair to the right of Mac's desk. The last member of the unholy trinity, Admiral Crossenshield, Crossie to most, had a chair to Mac's left.
"Now, what was the all-fired hurry?" Kris failed to avoid adding.
"What is that!" the King said, pointing at the bundle cradled in Kris's left arm.
Is he so locked up in his own little bubble that he didn't get the word? Kris removed the blanket that had protected her infant daughter's face, keeping her warm from the crisp autumn weather during the drive from the space-elevator station to Main Navy. "This is Ruthie Marie. Jack and my firstborn," she said.
She pointed Ruthie's gummy smile at the two couples who stood by the bookcase to the left of the unholy three. They didn't look at all surprised to see her bundle. Indeed, if they hadn't known of tiny Ruthie, they would never have been here.
"Can I see the baby?" Kris's mother, Brenda, squeed. At her elbow, Great-grandmother Ruth Tordon, more commonly known as Mrs. Trouble, held back. Brenda was so rarely happy after the kidnapping and death of her third child, Eddy, that any moment of joy was not to be denied her.
Kris met her mother halfway and most gently and carefully managed the transfer. Mother must have been getting practice with Honovi's three; Kris had to do little to get Mother's arms just right.
You will get this just right. This is my baby, Kris thought but did not say.
Ruthie gave Brenda a toothless grin. Brenda grinned back, enraptured. Gramma Trouble stood at one elbow, Kris at the other. Brenda could not have dropped Ruthie if she wanted to.
"Her full name," Kris provided, "is Ruth Maria Brenda Anne."
"Hi there, my little Brenda," Brenda said.
Great-grampa Trouble, trouble to his enemies, trouble to his superiors, and just flat trouble to everyone, including himself, stood well out of range of any spit-up with Billy Longknife, Man of the People, Prime Minister of Wardhaven, and Kris's occasional father.
"What's her last name?" Grampa Ray asked, coming to stand by his longtime friend, General Trouble, ret.
"Haven't decided," Kris said. "Probably we'll have to do it before she starts school, but we can wait."
"You're married to Jack, here," the King said, no part question at all.
Lieutenant General Jack Montoya nodded, as did Kris.
"When did that happen?" was as gruff as a man could manage under Ruthie's gummy grin.
"While I was out of any chain of command," Kris said. "Just before you issued orders making me God Almighty in the Alwa system."
That got a snort from Ray and a chuckle from everyone else paying attention.
"I'll bet you any amount of money Rita was at the bottom of this," the King growled.
"She officiated," Kris said, beaming happily.
"That woman keeps everyone wrapped around her little finger," Ray muttered.
Kris considered how much Great-grandfather Ray had pulled the strings that damn near wrapped her in a spiderweb of conflicting duties on Alwa but said nothing. Ray was what he was, and there was little she could do to change him at his present age, with 120-plus years disappearing in the rearview mirror.
Grampa Trouble laid a nearly affectionate hand on Ray's shoulder. "Ray, you knew those two were going to tie the knot, it was only a question of when and where."
Kris let out a sigh. This was going smoother than she had expected.
The Wasp had jumped into the Wardhaven system, finally slowed down enough to hit it at under fifty thousand kilometers an hour. Kris had expected an immediate message from Mac or Ray. After all, they were the ones who had had Grand Admiral Sandy Santiago relieve her of her command and order her home "soonest."
The Wasp docked at High Wardhaven Station as smoothly as if Captain Drago were still at the conn. Kris had expected a message as soon as they opened their locks and plugged into the station's landline, air, water, and sewer.
Jack had to order up transport for Kris and a two-squad Marine Honor Guard-fully locked and loaded. A chief bosun's mate, a fatherly type, had followed along, a diaper bag slung over his shoulder with such aplomb that none would dare gainsay him.
Only when they had dropped down to the main beanstalk terminal in Wardhaven had the necessary transport been waiting for them. They'd been whisked from the terminal to Main Navy and led by a very silent lieutenant colonel to Mac's inner sanctum.
The colonel had passed them to Mac's secretary, who smiled, and said, "You are expected," and held open the door to Mac's inner office.
Kris had taken a deep breath and reported in.
She still had no idea where the fire was that required her to leave the fleet she had built up, the people she had sworn to protect, and the industrial base she'd grown and overseen.
I've had enough of being the visiting fireman. Especially enough of being ordered from pillar to post with no idea of what I'm supposed to do or how to do it.
Still, Kris held her tongue as Ruthie smiled and did her best to wrap around her tiny finger all of Kris's problem people, the Troubles excepted . . . sometimes.
Even Ray finally tried his hand at holding Ruthie. That was when disaster struck.
Ruthie scrunched up her face and let out a yowl. Then she spat up.
Good girl. I've wanted to do that so many times, Kris thought.
But "diaper bag" was what Kris called for. The Marines and the chief had been able to avoid Kris's little family reunion. Lucky them. These were usually a disaster, and there was no need for the Marines to know just how bad it got the higher up you went. Smart Jack, he'd grabbed the bag, not considering it beneath a three-star to pack the necessities for his tiny daughter. Now he handed the bag to Kris, already opened and with a cleaning cloth, half-pulled out. Kris flashed Jack a smile; whether they were fighting off bug-eyed monsters or close family, she could always count on him.
Kris traded the cloth to Grampa Ray for Ruthie. Jack had another cloth in hand, so Kris could clean up the tiny one. It was clear, however, that Ruthie had had enough of being nice for family. She still hadn't quite figured out what her lungs were for, but she already knew how to make with her own little war cry.
"How long's it been since she was fed?" Gramma Ruth asked.
"Just before we headed down," Kris answered as she checked to see that the diaper was neither wet nor messy. "I think this is an 'I'm hungry, where's lunch' howler," Kris agreed, only too happy to use Ruth for an excuse to get a break from all this family attention.
"Can I feed her?" Brenda asked eagerly. "Do you have a bottle?"
"We were not prepared for children on Alwa Station," Kris explained. "We've had to do everything the old-fashioned way."
"Body birth and breast nursing, huh?" Gramma Trouble provided when Brenda frowned blankly.
"Yep," Kris said. "Do you have a room where I could nurse Ruthie?"
"How did you come to have a baby on the front line?" Grampa Ray asked, with a lot of royal command behind it.
Kris had been waiting for that one. "Someone sabotaged my new birth-control implants, figuring that a pregger admiral couldn't command. I dumped his ass in the bird-guano mines and commanded very well, thank you. By the way, thanks for those beam ships. We would have been toast when six alien hordes hit us all at the same time. With them, they were toast, slathered with marmalade. We did get the first two on our own, thank you very much. Anyway, Ruthie and I need to commune with motherhood just now. Jack can explain more if you need it. Where do we go?"
Ruthie emphasized the urgency of Kris's request with a bawl that was only three on the baby Richter scale but threatened to go higher if not appeased.
"Erwin," Mac commanded urgently on his intercom. The secretary appeared at the door. "Show the admiral to Admiral Ballo's office. He's taken leave today."
Erwin led Kris out of the office, into the hall, and to the next door down. It opened to a very standard set of senior flag officer's spaces. The walls were a deep mahogany. The outer wall had large picture windows with drapes that could be pulled shut. There were a desk, a meeting table, and a discussion pit, all standard-issue. The large armchair in the discussion pit was the one thing out of military step. It was a rocker.
"Admiral Ballo has a bad back," Erwin explained.
"He's not in today?"
Erwin glanced at the wall that the admiral shared with Mac's office. "He didn't say so, but I think he wanted to stay out of range of the collateral damage."
"Smart man," Kris said, and began to loosen the coat of her dress blues.
Erwin got the message and left.
"So it's just you and me, babe," Kris said, and settled Ruthie at her right breast, which, to be honest, was starting to ache. If Ruthie hadn't called for a chow break, Kris might have had to.
Kris began to relax as Ruthie suckled hungrily. She had a good view from her seat of blue sky and white clouds. That scene could match hundreds of worlds humanity had settled on.
Kris chose to let that thought wander on its way and smiled down at the miracle at her breast. "It is just you and me, little one."
Kris, we're going to stay," had become an all-too-frequent refrain in her last days on Canopus Station.
Penny had been the first.
"Kris, would you mind terribly if Masao and I stayed?"
"No," Kris had said, as cheerfully as she could manage. "Of course not."
But Penny went on talking, as if an explanation might make it hurt less.
"Admiral Santiago has offered us both a place on her staff. I'm to head up her intelligence section. She says it will mean captain stripes."
"How will Masao feel about you outranking him that much?" Kris asked.
"He won't. Santiago has authorization to create a staff drawing in officers from all the Alliance we have out here on Alwa Station. And she can promote them, too. Masao is overdue for lieutenant commander, and commander as soon as she can find an excuse for it."
"I wonder why I never got that authority," Kris grouched.
"I don't know, but it's nice she has it. I've also talked with Taussig. We're going to go in on a farm along that big river in Rooster territory. We've asked for a young colonial couple to go in with us. They'll cover the place all the time, and we'll rotate being home."
Penny paused. "Home. Strange to call this place all the way across the galaxy home."
"If it's where your and Masao's roots are, then it's home," Kris had said.
"I've got to get past losing Tommy," Penny said, suddenly. She still choked when she said the name of her husband of three days, who gave his life so that she might live.
"Yes, you do," Kris said, softly. She suppressed a shiver at the memory of ordering the dumb metal of her ship to seal all the holes in its hull . . . and seal Tommy's fate.
"I know, Kris. I will. Masao is the man I want to do it with."
Their conversation meandered along for a while longer before Penny finally left, leaving Kris to contemplate the changes that life brought your way.
Captain, no, Vice Admiral Drago was next.
"Commander Pett do okay by you?" he asked Kris after he had smiled at Ruthie Anne and assured Kris that she was a perfect baby.
"I'm alive, and the Wasp isn't even in line for the body and fender shop."
"Any landing you can walk away from."
"So, what really brings you around?" Kris had finally asked.
"Do you trust Commander Pett to get you and this cute little one back across the galaxy without a problem?"
"I do. Why?"
"I'm thinking of hanging around here for a while."
"Lots of people are," Kris allowed.
"I mean, it's not like admirals around here spend all their time trapped behind a desk. Everybody fights from four stars down to an Ostrich seaman recruit."
"It seems to go that way," Kris said, and paused to see if there was more to his hankering.
"And there's this colonial woman. She's buried two husbands and claims she can put me in the ground. I told her my wedding gift to her will be her very own burial plot," Drago said, grinning.
"Whatever floats your boat," Kris answered.
They talked for a bit longer, Kris praising Drago's handling of Fourth Fleet in the last battle. They left with promises to get together when next they shared the same space and share a beer and bring each other up to date.
There must have been something wrong with the air-recycling system; Kris needed a tissue to blow her nose.
Amanda and Jacques were no surprise.
They dropped by to gush to Kris that Prime Minister Ada of the colonials had set up a Science Advisory Committee and invited both of them to fill slots on it.
"We'll have an entire budding economy to work on," Amanda said.
"She's in hog heaven," Jacques growled.
"And you aren't?" Amanda growled right back. "You've got all kinds of bird cultures to work with, and I've heard you say the humans have many divergent cultures among themselves, what with the colonials and the Navy and the industrial types."
"Oink, oink," Jacques said through a happy grin.
"And we've also been asked to establish Alwa's first university," said Amanda, getting even more enthusiastic. "They haven't agreed on a name. Rita U just doesn't carry, and she's had so many other last names."
“Rita suggested we name it after her father, Nuu U,” Jacques put in.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great book. Love the changes. Should be more about her Meg Longknife.