Unbreakable: A Novel

Unbreakable: A Novel

by W. C. Bauers

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Overview

The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration—until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.

When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet's populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.

Meanwhile, the RAW's most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise's Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.

Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers is character-driven military science fiction featuring a female marine caught between two empires.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765375421
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 01/13/2015
Series: Chronicles of Promise Paen Series , #1
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

W. C. BAUERS has worked on the sales side of publishing for more than thirteen years. Unbreakable is his first novel. His interests include Taekwondo, reading and writing military science fiction, toting gear for his Alpha Unit, and French press brewing. He lives in the Rocky Mountains with his wife and three boys.

Read an Excerpt

Unbreakable

The Chronicles of Promise Poem, Book One


By William C. Bauers

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2014 William C. Bauers
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-4729-3


CHAPTER 1

OCTOBER 17TH, 86 A.E., STANDARD CALENDAR, 7:30 A.M. LOCAL TIME, GRATION FAMILY HOMESTEAD, IN THE HIGH COUNTRY OF MONTANA


Six years earlier ...

Fresh air spilled into her upstairs bedroom through an old wooden window. Promise inhaled the smells of an early autumn shower, which normally calmed her, but not today. She scanned her room in frustration. Anyone walking into it might have thought a vandal had tossed it looking for valuables. She pinched her nose and scrunched her eyebrows, just like her father did, then slowed her breathing and counted to seven, just long enough to temper her words. She rarely let her father see her perturbed and had no intention of doing so today.

"Dad! Where's my comb?" Promise closed her eyes. I really did try not to yell. "You know," she said as she forced her shoulders to relax, "the one Mamma gave me for my birthday?"

"Try your nightstand, dear."

"Right." The lamp stood alone, a sea of nicknacks swept to the floor beneath it. Promise imagined her father seated in his hardwood desk chair, sighing in resignation. She didn't even try to keep the edge from creeping back into her voice. "I know it's not approved by the elders, but it's from Mamma, and it's one of the few things I have left."

"Yes, I know," Morlyn Gration answered with a maddening degree of patience, but without ceding the point. "Try not to obsess about it."

"Try some compassion," she muttered under her breath. Remember, P, he misses her, too — cut him some slack. Just not too much.

Promise knew her father was hard at work and that she had interrupted him over what he considered to be a trivial matter. She pictured his study vividly: a modest flattop desk, on the right of which sat a pad of paper and a gravity-fed pen because Morlyn Gration refused to use a smartpad or a sensible backup. Rows of calculations foretold the size of the coming harvest and the profits it would net. On a shelf above his head sat a seldom-used book of genealogy. Behind him stood a narrow shelf of books neatly filled with volumes on herbals, horticulture, and husbandry. All very boring in her opinion.

Her family was small and proud. They'd come to the planet Montana many generations ago, on the tail end of the Third Diaspora, which had come to a close with Earth's death. As planetary deaths went, it had been a particularly bad one. Time reset itself, A.E. this time instead of C.E., to keep the homeworld's memory alive, of course. But after one hundred years, no one cared anymore.

The lucky ones had left before "The Event," drawn to Montana by its distance from Holy Terra and their separatist Luddite zeal ... and just in time, too. Thank God.

After landing, the Grations migrated to Montana's northern hemisphere, to a parcel of land along the foothills of the Fhordholm mountain range, only a day's hike from the tree line. They saw four seasons and winters that dipped deep into the minuses, lived close to the land, and dabbled in tradecraft. In less than a generation, harsh Montana winters took their toll, the deaths mounted — so many children, lost unnecessarily — and time-honored traditions crumbled to dust. The Grations became reluctant technophiles of a sort. And why not? That's what mechs were for, after all. Let them grunt it out for a change. Let the children live.

Big surprise, Promise thought as she kicked a pile of clothes in frustration. Not that using mechs bothered her. It didn't. But it was the principle of the matter, which brought her back to the comb. He sees the value of machines. I wish I could ask Mom why she fell for him. Dad can be so ... so ... stubborn! Can't he see how much this means to me?

Promise gave up her search. She walked to her closet, reached up high, and grabbed the handgun and holster off the top shelf, making both disappear. She walked down the hall and descended the stairs, which emptied into a plain room. A few solid pieces of furniture hugged the walls, which supported several acrylic landscapes, soft pastorals full of greens and yellows and browns. Her father's rocker sat near a bricked fireplace. Her mother's leather armchair faced to the east. Mount Kinley stood in the distance, a purple dome that had once topped five thousand meters before it blew its top.

"Be back for lunch," yelled her father.

"Don't plan on it," Promise shouted back.

She was already halfway to her ride when she heard the screen door slam shut behind her. Promise swung her leg over the sled and felt her hands mold to the polymer grips. A green light on the steering console came to life and scanned her eyes. Then the sled rose on a platform of countergravity.

Promise glanced behind her and up at her father's office window. She caught movement and knew he was watching her from above, hoping not to be seen. "He looks. Too bad he never really sees me." She pivoted, then urged her sled forward and out of sight.

CHAPTER 2

OCTOBER 17TH, 86 A.E., STANDARD CALENDAR, 7:57A.M. LOCAL TIME, GRATION FAMILY HOMESTEAD, IN THE HIGH COUNTRY OF MONTANA


Promise left the sled by a small creek at the base of the hill. She'd gone there to collect her thoughts and to grieve the loss of her treasure. But there was plenty of time for that and runners didn't waste cool mornings in self-pity. She had only meant to jog a few kilometers. But as her thighs heated, she made the decision to push. Conditioned muscles responded, and three klicks became five, then ten. As she ran, three gray-blue moons floated overhead, a trio of sentinels guarding the hectares of agriculture below them. The air was brisk and wormed its way into her jumpsuit, chilling her slight breasts.

She heard her father's mantra coax her forward as the lactic acid collected in her legs, tempting her to quit. Rise early, work late, or poverty will knock at your door like an armed man and destroy you.

How about rest, Dad. Rest is good, too. She'd told him so often enough. A little sleep, a little slumber, makes a man a kinder soul. Her father never did know how to take a joke.

Before returning home, she doubled back to the hill to watch the sun crest over the horizon and chase away the night. Her home stood in the distance, about two kilometers away. The path to the hill's top was a series of switchbacks marked by trampled grasses and clay, clear evidence that she had been there many times before. As she neared the summit, Promise heard the roar of engines. She ducked instinctively as a shadow passed overhead. She'd never seen one in real life, just in vids and stills. But she immediately knew what it was. Short-range, blocky, and clearly armed. Two manned sleds dropped from the craft's belly, changed course, and quickly disappeared into the landscape, headed roughly in the direction of her home. Then the larger craft turned that way, too.

A sudden, overwhelming fear washed over her. The nets had reported raids across the planet Garius, barely a week ago, and Garius was only a short jump from Montana.

Oh, God, please turn! But the craft didn't alter its course.

Promise tracked the vessel with growing trepidation. She withdrew a small optic from a band on her arm and used it to glass the land below. The ship came to stop above the ground and a short distance from her rectangular, wood-framed house. Two sleds shot out of the trees and climbed high above them before circling the much larger ship. They reminded Promise of wraiths waiting to collect the dead. The main vessel hovered, impossibly still. Seven figures dropped from its belly and sunk their boots into Montana's orange clay. They drew weapons and spread out. Fear held Promise in place. Time seemed to stretch as one second became ten, and then sixty.

She watched her father exit the front door to face his attackers in The Way — hands raised, palms up, in peace. Like any other day, his dress was plain as his God had intended it to be: a woven hat shielding his eyes; his black vest hanging open and casual (the proper black); the sleeves on his blue shirt (the proper blue) rolled to the correct place on his elbows; his khakis generic, not brand. One of the seven stepped toward him with his weapon raised.

Morlyn Gration's body fell backward in slow motion. Promise waited anxiously for him to rise. He has to get up. Get up, Dad. Get up! She screamed in silence. A slight breeze caught his hat and blew it into a mound of flowers, and like that she knew he was gone.

They worked methodically and took everything of value that could be sold or traded: household effects, servomechs, and livestock. They set fire to the rest and then disappeared into the upper atmosphere.

Promise watched it happen from the top of the hill, helpless to do anything about it. She couldn't cry. She couldn't move. She feared going home. What if they returned? She feared moving from the hill and being detected, or possibly taken, or worse. She sat transfixed, rocking herself with her arms around her knees, until the sun approached its zenith.

A brief gust of wind startled her and nearly succeeded in pushing her over. As quickly as the wind picked up, it stopped, and grew strangely still. She reached back to retie her hair and felt her blood pumping in her neck and pounding in her ears. She pressed into the thrum thrum thrum of it, as if each pulse was all that mattered. Her father had believed that life and death was in the blood, that it was a cardinal sin to shed it. Mom would have fought. Why didn't you? The accusation was aimed at her father but ended up punching her in the gut instead.

"Why?" It was barely a whisper. Then in earnest: "Why?" Again, and again, and again. Until her screams turned to gut-wrenching sobs and bruised fists pounding the ground beneath her. She dug her hands into the soil and watched the clumps break apart and scatter.

Exhausted, she began to look for an answer, a direction, a what now? — anything. Lonely childhood memories circled about her, how she'd been raised by a plain, pacifist father who loved God and shop craft as near equals. An avatar of her mother materialized, a fierce fighter who'd charged through life with a 40-caliber sidearm strapped to her thigh.

Her parents had loved each other in spite of their differences. But Promise had been caught between them. Around the time she'd turned seven, she realized she might someday have to choose. It was her mother's sickness that ended up choosing for her. They buried Sandra the following year, on the day the ground thawed enough for digging. After that, her father had grieved in his own way by boxing up her mother's things and refusing to talk about it, or about her.

A memory flashed before her, one she hadn't thought of in years. She was in her mother's room, at about noon. They'd spent the morning in the garden, weeding and tidying up beneath a hot sun. Sandra had pushed her trowel into the earth and stood, arched her back, and brushed the soil from her hands. "Time to come in, munchkin." Promise skipped into her parents' bedroom and sat on the hardwood floor to play with her favorite doll. Her mother appeared sometime later, her hair damp and pulled back, wearing a silk gown with an ornate dragon coiled between the shoulders. Sandra walked to the full-length mirror and stood in silence.

"I feel so old."

"That's silly, Mommy. You're not even close to one hundred."

"I couldn't agree more, munchkin. Thank you."

Promise looked up and smiled. "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you too. Always and forever."

And nevermore. Her eyes shifted, and she was back on her hill, shivering with cold. Mom was so happy then. That's how I want to remember her.

Promise pulled herself up off the tear-stained ground, reached behind her head, and let all of her hair fall. She drew her handgun and pulled the slide all the way back, held it for a small eternity. As the round chambered, she found the strength to choose. Not your way, Dad. Not Mom's either — she wouldn't have wanted that. I choose to live on my own terms. Not for you or for her. For me.

CHAPTER 3

NOVEMBER 21ST, 86 A.E., STANDARD CALENDAR, 12:00 P.M. LOCAL TIME, PLANET MONTANA, LANDING CITY


She stood outside the RAW-MC recruiting station in the heart of the Landing, Montana's capital city. A handful of weeks had passed since her father's murder, weeks that might as well have been decades. Nothing felt right. It hadn't for years, really. Home — I don't even know what that is, what it's supposed to look like. I've lived like an orphan for too long.

The sign above the doorway read, YOUR TICKET TO THE STARS.

Right. Please scan mine and boost me out of here.


* * *

A week before, she'd seen it in the lawyer's office, a brochure about joining up, for the truly "gung ho." An Aunt Janie apparently wanted her. Promise had an idea of what that really meant. Warfighter. Wasn't that the unvarnished truth? Certainly not what her father thought. Paid killers. The brochure had been the only piece of carbonscreen in an otherwise Spartan room. Glass on two sides, sparsely furnished with two withered plants and a virtual painting, a large desk, two side tables, and several abused chairs. The smell of burnt caf. While Mr. Lackett talked her through her father's will, she'd lost herself in a grand what-if. A Republican Marine? Could I? What would Dad think? And Mom, I don't even have to ask — I know what she would say if she were here now. She'd smile and salute cavalierly and tell me that a Gration woman can do whatever a Gration man says she can't.

A hollow-point smile consumed Promise's face. From the other side of the desk, Mr. Lackett smiled uneasily. He'd seemed very sorry for her loss and relieved to tell her that she would be taken care of. But it wasn't her inheritance that brought the joy to her face. Realizing she had choices had changed her countenance, and that had settled it.

"Ms. Gration, I'll give you a bit of time to read through your father's last wishes." Mr. Lackett handed her a luminous, razor-thin tablet and a small stylus. "I'll just be in the other room if you need me."

As the door closed, Promise sagged against the back of her chair. She felt her mother's handgun press against her right kidney — she'd forgotten it was there. Her father wouldn't have approved. In his mind, Grations and guns were like blood and oil. Irreconcilable. So where does that leave me?


The Last Will and Testament of Morlyn P. Gration

I, Morlyn Paul Gration, resident of Bristletown, Montana, being of sound mind and body and at least eighteen (18) years of age, do hereby make ...

"The mind was very sound, true. But the body — tut, tut, tut —"

Promise jumped in her seat, and her head snapped up reflexively. Between Mr. Lackett's desk and the glass wall stood her dearly departed mother. Sandra Gration's hair glistened. She was dressed in a floor-length robe, cinched at the waist. A tail of some sort snaked over her shoulder and coiled around her heart possessively.

"I'm just joking, munchkin. Your father had a very nice derriere."

"Y-you, you're —"

"Spit it out, munchkin."

"Dead. You're dead. I was there."

"And yet here I am. How positively sublime."

Promise pressed her palms against her eyes and rubbed at them feverishly. When she opened them, she saw that her mother was ...

"Still here, dear."

Promise stood and began to pace around her chair. "I'm dreaming. No, I'm hallucinating. I have PTS — that's it! That must be it." Promise took a step backward, toward the door she'd entered through and away from her mother's apparition. "And you're not my mom. You're just a manifestation of my —"

"Stop psychobabbling, Promise. The fact that you can hear and see me is the important thing." Sandra came around the desk and leaned against its side.

Promise wrapped her arms around herself and stared intently at a woman she knew, knew, was long since dead and buried. "You always did cut to the point."

"Yes, well, your father liked to vacillate, and a businessman must be decisive. Someone had to look to our interests, and that someone was me. I made him twice the man he would have been otherwise, and three times as rich."

Promise couldn't decide whether to cry or smile. I've missed you so much.

"I know, munchkin. I've missed you, too."

"What?" You heard that?

"As if you shouted it for all to hear, like you did when you were born. I remember. God knows you were a stretch — a woman never forgets that kind of pain. You even startled the doctor." Sandra smiled at a distant memory. "And my nether regions were never the same either. The sex got better post you."

Mom.

"Sorry. I'm so glad to see you."

This isn't happening.

"I can't believe this is happening! What a fine young woman you've become. Let me look at you."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Unbreakable by William C. Bauers. Copyright © 2014 William C. Bauers. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Unbreakable 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author gets it. Action, adventure, outer space, people, Navy and Marines. Combat is real, action is spot on, dialogue and plot are accurate, believable, and real. If you like David Drake, David Weber, or John Ringo; you will like this. I will be keeping an eye out for this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a great first novel by Bauers. Well worth the money for a ebook. Looking to read more from him in the future. I'm not into SF genre add much, but I love Bauer's heroine Promise. Bauer does a good job on character development. It is a great read for sure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like Honor Harrington, but from a Marine's pov.
duncano More than 1 year ago
Marine officer Promise Paen is the best new SF action character since David Weber's Honor Harrington. I highly recommend this read to SF adventure readers. Looking forward to more stories about Paen's exploits!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If+you+like+military+sci+fi+you+should+check+this+one+out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Follow Promise Paen through combat and personal conflict in this page turner.
AudiobookReviewer More than 1 year ago
Promise Paen, the main character, grows up on one of the outer colonized worlds called Montana. The earth has split into two factions who fight over the resources of the outer colonies. More or less equal in strength, they seem to struggle back and forth gaining and losing worlds. Montana (the planet) has recently joined one of the factions to protect them from pirates. It is in fact a pirate raid that killed Promise’s non-violent father in front of her as a child. She joins the military as soon as she comes of age. That’s the basic plot, unfortunately, it is mostly hard to believe. The two political factions are woefully undermanned and plot ill-conceived plans that fail constantly. For example, the alliance which protects Montana (the planet) sends 16 marines to protect the planet. Hmm, kinda slim, Slim. The other side, nicknamed the Lucies send some fake pirates to destroy the space port and some of the capital city. Uh, aren’t you going to need that when you take over the planet? And on it goes. Promise spends some time conversing with a hallucination of her dead heroic mother. We are supposed to believe she is this super soldier, but with psychotic episodes. Though to be honest, this is the most interesting part of the character. There is lots of action, soldiers in mech suits and laser weapons, spaceship explosions, etc. But somehow, the action seems flat, phoned in, almost boring. The rest of the story is minute details of Montana life and the ridiculous political machinations of its cowboy president and her ex-boyfriend. Not awful, but tedious at times. You ever look at your phone or ipod to see how much longer the book is, this is one of those. Andi Arndt is the narrator and does a competent job. Nothing about her performance stands out as especially good or bad. This is a space military novel with some action scenes in space and on the ground with a strong female protagonist. If you generally like this genre of SciFi, you will find something to like about this novel. Also if you like strong female military characters you might also enjoy this one. There is a lot of political and sociological minutia which many listeners may find tedious. Audiobook provided for review by the publisher. Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
Anonymous More than 1 year ago