Praise for the Donovan novels
“What a ride! Excitement, adventure, and intrigue, all told in W. Michael Gear's vivid, compulsively readable prose. A terrific new science-fiction series; Gear hits a home run right out of the park and all the way to Capella.” —Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of Quantum Night
“A marginal colony on a living world—where human life and human will are tested to the limits. An intriguing and inventive new work from Michael Gear. Recommended!” —C. J. Cherryh, Hugo Award-winning author of Downbelow Station
“Gear kicks off a new sf series by weaving a number of compelling characters into the narrative, including bold heroine Talina Perez and Donovan itself, a planet teeming with danger and delights in turn.... Fans of epic space opera, like Rachel Bach’s Fortune’s Pawn (2013), will happily lose themselves in Donovan’s orbit.” —Booklist
“W. Michael Gear creates a fun and colorful setting on a planet full of interesting fauna and cunning, deadly animals.” —RT Reviews
“Dark and gritty, this book shows both the best and worst sides of humanity, all while being emotional and thought-provoking.” —It Starts at Midnight
“It's not easy to create an entire new planet setting and to immediately ground the reader in that world, but Gear makes it look easy.... He strikes an impressive balance between only telling us what we need to know when we need to know it and making this feel like a fully-realized place from the get-go.” —Den of Geek
“The novel's prose is as razor-sharp as Donovan's toothy beasts, its characters deftly defined. The enveloping narrative gallops along at a fierce pace and will make Outpost one of the must-read sci-fi releases of 2018 when it arrives on February 20 from DAW Books.” —SyFy Wire
“A thrilling tale of high-stakes survival on an alien planet.” —Dread Central
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bringing their battle for supremacy to Port Authority and a showdown that could tear The Corporation apart.
Much to her disgust, Falise Taglioni has been chosen to ensure that her family emerges triumphant; she comes with instructions for her brother, Dek. After all, she could always manipulate him to her will. And she will again, even if she has to
destroy Talina Perez in the process. And if her war with the Grunnels, Xian Chans, and Radceks destroys Port Authority in the process? Who cares?
But nothing on Donovan is static, and in the three years since Ashanti's departure, life on the planet has hardened Kalico Aguila and the scrappy inhabitants of Port Authority. Life in the bush breeds a different kind of human: genetically altered,
tough, and self-reliant. And on Donovan, determining who is predator and who is prey has never been easy.
Meanwhile, for Kylee Simonov and her bonded quetzal, Flute, there will be a final comeuppance. Because on Donovan, blood vendetta needs to be paid. And then she's going to town. After which, nothing will be the same.
Praise for the Donovan novels
Read an Excerpt
All Taglionis were engineered to be perfect. Falise could see it in the image reflected from the transparency's smooth glass: a tall woman, athletic and slender, dressed in a shimmering wrap that brought to mind a rainbow-effect sari. Her hair had been perfectly coiffed, ash blond, auburn, and black streaks layered to create a striking and artistic pattern. She elevated her chin, staring thoughtfully at the perfectly proportioned face-though against the glass, her emerald-green eyes weren't shown to their best effect. She had been designed to be beautiful, right down to her long fingers with their immaculately manicured nails.
She stood in Turalon's observation dome and stared out at the galaxy. For the last year and seven months, she had missed seeing stars. After Turalon inverted symmetry, the only thing to see had been a weird gray haze that seemed to suck at the eyes. Thirty seconds of staring at it brought on vertigo. Captain Margo Abibi had informed her that it had to do with how photons were absorbed by the fields that surrounded the ship while in the state of inverted symmetry that popped it "outside" of the regular universe. Physics wasn't one of Falise's interests, though through her implants, she could call up anything she needed to know.
In her eyes, it was sufficient that fusion reactors generated electromagnetic and gravitational fields powerful enough to press the ship outside of regular space. And once "outside," a dauntingly sophisticated statistical program calculated the probability that Turalon would be at the right location when it cut power to the fields and "popped" back into normal four-dimensional spacetime. Sort of like a bubble of air being forced underwater, Turalon could only remain outside the universe as long as the generators kept it there.
The trick, however, lay in the statistical probabilities calculated by the quantum cubit computers deep in the ship's guts. Probability. That was the key. For a year and seven months now, Turalon had been in whatever dimension of the multiverse a ship entered when symmetry was inverted. And then-according to the computers-less than an hour ago, probability suggested that if the fields were shut down-Turalon would pop back into the universe to which it belonged. It would find itself in the Capella system, thirty light years from Solar System.
Probability. Not certainty. Nothing was guaranteed.
While she lingered in the observation dome, the ship's crew and passengers were sweating it out in the mess hall. Waiting as the astrogation officer-or AO-made observations, comparing star charts, spectra, and navigational information to determine the ship's position.
Space travel wasn't for the faint of heart. Turalon could be anywhere, tens, hundreds, or thousands of light years from the nearest star. Lost. Condemned to a lingering death in the cramped warrens contained within Turalon's hull.
Falise stared anxiously out at the billions of stars, the unfamiliar swirls of nebulae, the inky black voids created by dark matter. None of the constellations were familiar. This was a whole new view of the Milky Way, one that alternately filled her with wonder and dread.
What if we're lost?
The thought pierced her like a thrust dagger. The thing that each and every one of Turalon's crew and passengers had been fearing from the moment the ship had inverted symmetry back in Solar System.
She didn't realize that she'd lifted her hand, was chewing at the joint of her thumb. Forced herself to lower her arm, to raise her chin, and glare out at the galaxy. But that didn't stop the thumping of her heart, or the worry that slipped around her guts like a liquid serpent.
She heard his arrival, could see who it was in the observation blister's reflection: Cinque Suharto. Her family rival stepped into the room, stopping at sight of her. Said, "Oh, it's you."
"Thought I would take a look for myself. Where are the others?"
"Still crowded into the Crew's Mess, waiting for word from the captain. Same for the riffraff down on the Transportee Deck." Cinque stepped in, stopping beside her to contemplate the view. He wore a midnight-black outfit tailored to his massive frame; an inky cape added to the effect. Like her, he had been engineered to be his family's perfect progeny. At nearly two meters, he was a striking man. The perfect image of a male, well-muscled, every curve in proportion, his dark brown skin almost radiant with health.
She shot him a sidelong glance. Yes, he'd chosen the expensive suit. The one made of fibers that shunted light down and out at the heels so that the fabric seemed to have depth, as if it sucked light from the room. When he wore it, it added to the air of menace Cinque liked to project. But why he had chosen . . .? Ah, yes. If it turned out that they were lost, he was positioning himself for the inevitable struggle to be the last one standing.
Falise fought a shiver. She never liked being close to Cinque. Not that she held any Suharto in high regard, but, like her, Cinque had been chosen for this mission for a very specific reason: he had been sent to win. No matter the cost.
They all had.
"What will it be?" she asked. "Have we arrived at the Capella system? Or are we staring out from our tomb? Destined to be a floating mausoleum among the stars?"
He crossed slab-thick arms over his muscular chest. In the reflection, she could see his lips pinch into a thin line, his completely black eyes fixed on the swirling patterns of stars. A faint shrug barely lifted his shoulders. "It will be what it will be. They chose Turalon because she made it to Capella and back. The other ships, all of the ones that were lost? Who knows? Must have had some flaw. Maybe a fatal error in the statistical programming."
"Nemesis made two successful trips before she vanished," Falise reminded. "And then . . . poof. Gone."
She waited, once again studying him for any tell, any reaction that would give her an edge.
He shifted, slid a black-booted toe across the sialon deck in a dancer's move. He did that as a way of reminding people of his speed and balance. He was, after all, his family's most formidable weapon. Smart, deadly, and focused. The perfect choice when it came to sparring for Suharto interests on Capella III.
"Let us assume that we're lost," he said in a mild voice. "Assume that the fail-safes don't work. That we're so far from a star that we can't recover enough fuel to refill the tanks. That we're marooned out in the black. Forever. Your aforesaid mausoleum."
He was speaking to her deepest fears. Not that she'd give him the slightest hint by word or expression. Voice flat, she said, "We promptly eliminate the nonessentials, as they did with Freelander. Find and plot a course to the nearest system that looks like it might have resources. Split the living quarters between the families. After that, we hold on as long as we can until we make it to someplace where humans can survive."
"Was that your briefing from your family?" Cinque asked mildly.
"Was it yours?" she shot back.
When he said nothing, she told him, "We all know why we were chosen: Donovan has turned out to be worth more than even sordid old Radcek himself might have hoped. With Turalon's and then Ashanti's sudden arrival in Solar System, The Corporation is now shaken to its core. Hidden away in his quarters just down the hall is a Board Appointed Inspector General-the renowned Suto Soukup, no less-granted unlimited authority to investigate the situation on Capella III. After a century and a half of stability, the precarious balance between the families is now threatened. And by what? A handful of human rabble who appear to be sitting on the greatest wealth in the galaxy."
His sidelong glance was measuring. "I met Dan Wirth at a reception. He's your brother Derek's tool, isn't he? A poison-coated sliver aimed right at your dear Uncle Miko's heart. I thought the good Mister Wirth, despite all his exotic wealth, was little more than a loathsome creature escaped from the sewer."
"A cogent assessment," she agreed, remembering her own reaction to the man. Loathsome? A creature? She couldn't have said it better. "To our dismay, he's also the richest bit of toilet-sucking slime in Solar System. Whatever Derek's goals, Dan Wirth hasn't just upset the Taglionis. All of the families have been stunned by his sudden explosion on the scene."
"Explosion?" Cinque asked.
She tilted her head to see him better. "Seems like every action he takes sends tremors and shock waves through the highest tiers of society."
He gave her a studied nod; it served as the barest acknowledgment in the dangerous game they played. "A narcissistic and antisocial criminal personality, one without empathy or the capability of remorse, is suddenly catapulted into the highest realms of power and culture." His eyes narrowed. "Uncle should have let me break his neck." His hard eyes met hers. "But Wirth has Taglioni protection."
"Not mine," she told him, weighing the implication of her words. "Doesn't matter to me that he is Derek's protégé."
Cinque laughed, the sound of it harsh. "Ah, but that's why you were chosen, wasn't it, dear Falise? Because you're Derek's sister. The one who could always wheedle her way around her pouting and sullen big brother." He raised a hand. "Don't deny it. The posturing would be a demeaning farce. The other houses know why you were dispatched on this fool's errand. Miko and your other cousins are as worried about what Derek's doing on Donovan as the rest of us."
"I'm not sure that worried is the right-"
"Of course it is." Cinque reached up to run a finger along his smooth jaw as he stared out at the stars. "It's common knowledge that surly and spoiled Derek ran off in a snit. A figurative 'fuck you' to his father and Uncle Miko. Everyone, including you, little sister, considered it good riddance. Even found no little relief when Turalon returned to Solar System to report that Ashanti was lost in space. I can hear it now, the voices whispering among the Taglionis, 'Too bad, the little Cretan got what he deserved. Problem solved.'" Cinque paused, smile mocking. "Right up until Ashanti shows up, loaded past the hatches with enough wealth to buy half of Solar System. And worse, it arrives with news that Derek's not only alive, he's laying claim to vast amounts of Donovan's riches."
Falise kept her expression blank, irritated that Cinque had such a complete understanding of her family. But then, it wasn't like she didn't have the same insight into his, or Chad Grunnel's, or Bartolome Radcek's. Her other companions on this benighted gamble. They, too, had been delegated to make the dangerous transition on Turalon. Like Falise and Cinque, they were sent to scout, assess, and establish their family's interests. That the Montanos, Xian Chans, and Terblanchs didn't have representatives on board was only due to their inability to scramble fast enough to get a warm body to Neptune in time for Turalon's departure. As it was, the ship was detained for three days pending the arrival of Inspector General Soukup and his "Four." The genetically engineered and cyber-designed humans who recorded and analyzed his evidence.
But representatives from the other families would be coming. Just as soon as the Board could turn Ashanti around and space her back to Donovan.
As she studied Cinque's reflection in the transparency, she had to admire Derek's cunning. By sending Dan Wirth-a criminal psychopath afloat in wealth-back to Solar System under Taglioni sponsorship, Derek had ensured that the families would employ every resource they controlled in The Corporation to ensure that Capella III would be developed. As to how? That would depend on which family gained the upper hand. Not to mention the wild card of having a Board Appointed Inspector General of Soukup's reputation given free rein in the middle of the scramble.
She'd had a year and seven months to consider just how brilliant Derek had been. And knowing that, she hated him for it. Right down to the depths of her soul. Hated him like she'd never hated another human being. Because, had he not, she wouldn't have just wasted a year and seven months of her life on this suffocating bucket of air. Instead of suffering Cinque, Chad, and Bartolome and eating reprocessed yeast in the Crew Mess, she'd be enjoying the finest of companions on Transluna, and dining on the culinary creations at Tiborrone.
Until Derek shocked the family, she'd been thriving in the company of Boardmembers, enjoying the fruits of wealth, prestige, and the power that came of being a rising star among the Taglionis. She'd been the cherished daughter-the one her father, Claudio, had fawned over. Falise had proven her worth to her Uncle Miko, the current Board Chairman and the most powerful man in Solar System. She'd been the clever arbitrator of the Board's clandestine and Machiavellian politics. By her own calculations, she had a straight shot at a Board seat. Her talent as unrivaled as Kalico Aguila's had been before the woman made the fatal mistake of shipping off to Capella III, as Donovan's world was officially known.
Things couldn't have been better. Right up to the moment that Dan Wirth stepped off Ashanti as a supposed Taglioni prize.
If I live to see Derek, I'll rip him into little pieces and ship his remains home in a jar, she promised herself.
Instead of anticipating a marvelous supper at Three Spires with a gorgeous male from the Hetaira guild hanging off each arm, she was standing here-next to one of the most odious and dangerous human beings to have ever lived-after nineteen months of incarceration in the cramped warrens that Turalon called "executive cabins." Waiting. Terrified that at any moment, Captain Abibi's voice would inform them all, "Our apologies, ladies and gentlemen, but it appears that we are far off course. We will inform you of the details as soon as we establish our location vis-à-vis the galactic core."
At which instant, she would turn, reach into her sash, and pull the small dagger from its hidden sheath. If she were fast enough, she would punch it into Cinque's side. Dance away. And hope that the poison would immobilize the big man before he could grab hold of her. If he got to her before the poison put him down, he'd snap her neck like it was a glass rod.
Then-assuming she survived long enough to escape the observation blister-she only had Chad and Bartolome to deal with. Each was just as intimidating in his own way. But then, none of the families that controlled The Corporation demonstrated scruples when it came to power.