After the Confederation makes a shocking discovery on an alien world, a nefarious band of opportunists from the highest echelons of power plot to steal the vast riches for themselves. Along with the ability to crush any resistance, these moguls possess spacecraft, unlimited resources, and a deadly arsenal of cutting-edge weapons.
The only one without a price tag is the Confederation president. Now she is sending Gunnery Sergeant Bass, the men of third platoon, and a single special agent to expose the shadowy figures behind the corruption. And so, on an obscure planet, home to unimaginable treasure and an unsettling species, the toughest fighters in Human Space confront their fiercest battle. For there will be no losers in this war, only the triumphant, the dead, and the vanished . . .
About the Author
Dan Cragg enlisted in the United States Army in 1958 and retired with the rank of sergeant major twenty-two years later. During his army service, Mr. Cragg served more than eleven years in overseas stations, five and a half of them in Vietnam. He is the author of Inside the VC and the NVA (with Michael Lee Lanning), Top Sergeant (with William G. Bainbridge), and a Vietnam War novel, The Soldier's Prize. In real life, Mr. Cragg is an analyst for the Defense Department. He and his wife, Sunny, live in Virginia, where honest citizens are allowed to pack heat. Visitors after dark are strongly urged to call ahead.
Read an Excerpt
"Move, move-move!" Sergeant Bladon's radioed shout reverberated through
Lance Corporal Rock Claypoole's helmet.
"Blow that hinge, Rock!" Corporal Kerr shouted, adding his demand.
"I'm trying, I'm trying," Claypoole shouted back.
"Want some help?" PFC Wolfman MacIlargie asked. "Let me in there, I'll get
it." He had already blown his hinge.
"Stay away," Claypoole snarled, and tried again to clamp the blower onto
the upper lever, where it hinged into the airlock hatch. MacIlargie
squirted closer and bumped him. For a vertiginous moment Claypoole spun
slowly away from the spaceship in orbit around Thorsfinni's World. His
tether jerked him to a yawing stop a few meters away. "Back off, Wolfman,"
he snapped, and hauled himself back to the hatch that second squad's
second fire team was trying to breach. In his ungainly armored vacuum
suit, Claypoole struggled to lock his boot magnets to the hull and hatch
on either side of the hinge. He managed to seat the cup of the blower over
the hinge. He reached one thickly gloved hand to the crimper and pulled on
it. The cup closed securely onto the end of the arm.
Claypoole looked down the length of the meter long tool and decided it was
perpendicular to the hull and his feet were widespread enough. He gave the
top end of the blower a quarter twist, bent it down to a ninety degree
angle to expose the trigger, stuck a gloved finger through the trigger
guard and pulled.
The shaped charge inside the blower jetted its force into the metal, abruptly raising
its temperature from near zero Kelvin to morethan a thousand degrees centigrade. The rapid temperature change shattered the hinge, buckled the metal around it, and sent shock waves thrumming through the surrounding hull and hatch. One of Claypoole's feet was knocked loose, but the magnets on the other boot held.
"Move move-move!" Bladon shouted again.
Claypoole shifted one foot so both were on the hull and removed the
blower. The tool drifted at the end of its tether.
Kerr clomped carefully to his side and slapped the end of the puller he
held against the hatch. He gave the handle the twist that shot its mollies
into the metal, then raised a hand in signal.
"Do it," Corporal Linsman said, and Lance Corporal Watson slapped the Go
button on the winch. The cable that ran from the tripod to the puller
tautened and the hatch slowly lifted. The Marines readied their weapons.
As soon as the hatch was clear of the hull, Watson slapped another button
on the winch to move the hatch to the side.
When the gap was wide enough, Kerr demagnetized his boots and stepped over
the lip of the hatchway. He fired a quick puff from his suit's top jet and
plummeted down into the airlock, where he twisted around so the inner
hatch was in front instead of below him. He reactivated his boot magnets
to hold his feet to the deck. Claypoole and MacIlargie followed.
"Hey, watch it," Claypoole snarled at MacIlargie, who bumped into him as
he tried to mimic Kerr's maneuver.
"Sorry," MacIlargie replied, and used handholds to pull himself away from
Claypoole. "Kind of cramped in here." Their boots clunked to the decking
as they activated the magnets.
The airlock was big enough to hold four vacuum-suited deckhands along with
the equipment they'd need to work on the hull, but three combat-armed
Marines in armored vacuum suits filled it almost to overflowing. The inner
hatch was barely wide enough to admit them one at a time.
"Quiet," Kerr ordered, and bent his attention to opening the inner-hatch
access panel. He freed three corners of the small plate and swiveled it
aside on its remaining corner screw. He briefly examined the boards and
crystals inside the control box while he fished an override from a cargo
pocket on his thigh, then stuck the override onto the right crystal. "All
secure?" he asked.
Claypoole and MacIlargie made sure they each had a grip on a handhold and
a tether clipped onto another. "Secure," they replied, and pointed their
blasters toward the inner hatch.