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An excerpt from The Stardancers.

An excerpt from the upcoming science-fiction novel, The Stardancers, the final novel in the Hominin Union saga, to be released in January 2018.

 

Part I: The Battle of Borrega

 

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

Helmuth von Moltke

Ackerman

Prime Minister Jane Ackerman paused, found a good foothold on the rock face, and looked around. The treeless and rocky slope extended several hundred meters down to the grass-covered floor of the valley. Beyond, the dark gray mountains rose to white peaks, a strong wind driving the snow off the heights.

“How much farther?” asked her assistant, Natalie Harker. She stood a few meters below; the woman’s plump face looked florid, and she breathed heavily.

“About fifty meters,” Ackerman replied and purposefully smiled. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” Her pocket computer beeped; she retrieved it from a pocket and swiped the screen.

 

Fifth Fleet Command has just assigned Commander Joshua McFinn to the supply station orbiting Turrentine. TS.

 

My son. Memories flooded into her mind: the feel of Joshua’s tiny body as his father placed him into her arms after his birth; his first steps; Joshua standing with his teammates after winning the boys’ tournament; his bright smiling face as he walked off the stage at his graduation from secondary school. How long has it been since I have seen him? Seventeen years? She knew he ran away from her as well as his father; they had both pushed him hard. Too hard.

She pocketed the device and continued to climb, her gut a cauldron of emotions. She had loved Joshua’s father, Robert: his intelligence; his discipline; his wry humor; his physical stature; his daring. But it was his ambition that consumed him, his willingness to flaunt the rules, and, what was finally revealed to her, his casual disdain for those who stood in his way. More than disdain: contempt and a complete lack of regard for the lives of others.

She topped the ridge and stood, her hair flying in the wind. She looked at the snow streaming off the mountains into the clear blue sky, but her thoughts and emotions almost blinded her. She had read the report for the Anuvi Incident, even though it had been classified by the General Intelligence Directorate. Her heart had ached at what her son must have experienced out in the vastness of space. But her pride had surged at his willingness to sacrifice himself for the sake of others.

My son.

“Whew!” Natalie exclaimed as she stopped the ridge. “That’s quite a climb!”

“Not bad,” Ackerman said. “I do this quite often. Are you up for it?”

“I think so.”

Ackerman looked at her new assistant. The woman was intelligent, but inexperienced, and needed to lose some kilograms.

She was also a traitor.

“Tell me, Ms. Harker. When did the Union Security Service buy you?”

Natalie’s eyes grew wide and her jaw dropped. “I don’t know what you mean, Prime Minister.”

“I think they approached you while you were still a student at NQU. You were a party girl, weren’t you? Found yourself in some embarrassing positions, perhaps? You knew your father wouldn’t approve, since he is the High Marshal for the New Queensland Defense Forces.”

The young woman’s face turned crimson red. “I … I …,” she stammered, and then looked away.

“That was over ten years ago, Ms. Harker. How did they string you along? Money payments? Promise of a position in the Imperial Court?”

The young woman sat down on the rocks and started to cry.

“Tell me about it.”

“It’s just as you say,” the young woman sobbed. “They pushed me to apply for a job in the Prime Minister’s Office. I …” She put her face in her hands and sobbed.

“Yes?”

“I planted software … programs …”

“Using your security clearance, you tapped my communications.”

“Yes.”

“You betrayed my trust in you.”

The young woman sobbed, the tears streaming down her face.

Ackerman sat down beside the young woman. “I cannot lie to you; you have done irreparable harm to me, and the world of New Queensland. Even though they rule, the Imperials are our enemies.”

“Please forgive me!”

Jane Ackerman had been climbing these highlands on New Queensland for over fifteen years. She was fit and strong, with a grip of iron. She moved to hug the girl, then placed her hands around the plump neck and squeezed. The young woman’s eyes grew wide and she choked. Keeping her hands around the young woman’s neck, Ackerman rolled the young woman to the ground as she struggled. Ackerman placed a knee on the young woman’s chest and squeezed even harder.

Natalie Harker struggled for a few moments, then lay still.

Robert McFinn kills for ambition; I kill for survival.

Ackerman sat on the rocks and pulled out her pockcomp. “It’s done.”

“Yes, ma’am,” her assistant, her true assistant, Thomas Silva, answered. “I’m on my way.”

She only had to wait a few minutes, and a shuttlecraft topped the nearby mountains, circled, and landed on the narrow ridge. Three figures emerged from the craft. The lead figure was tall, broad-shouldered, with thinning dark hair and a round face. Thomas Silva had been her bodyguard for almost ten years, ever since she had entered the New Queensland Parliament. A former member of X Division of the New Queensland Defense Forces, the man was trained in network security and interrogation as well as the military arts.

“You should have let me do that,” Silva said.

“No. This was my duty.”

Silva and Ackerman watched as the other two men picked up the young woman’s corpse and carried it toward the shuttle.

“What about her father?”

“I’ll tell him I did it, and why. He won’t do a thing. We have the proof.”

“You’re a brave woman.”

“We have bigger problems than High Marshal Frederick Harker.” She walked toward the shuttle and Silva followed. “Thank you for the text.”

“You’re welcome. What’s next?”

“Are the others on their way?”

“Yes.”

“Her Majesty’s strength is growing. We have plans to make.”

 

Ackerman looked out of the small porthole of the courier. The wreck loomed large in the darkness of space. Unlike the flat rectangular or arrowhead-shaped slabs of modern starships, this was a hulking pillar, the ancient fusion engines long cold, the hull picked over for salvage hundreds of times. It had been floating in the outer reaches of the system for three hundred years. The dim starlight just illuminated the forward hull, the letters of the ship’s name pitted and scored: USS Liberty.

She had thoroughly studied the history of her adopted home. The Liberty led the fleet to liberate New Queensland from the Snirr occupation that had lasted for fifteen years. Admiral von Kármán himself stood on the bridge of the vessel, but had to abandon it when it was damaged in battle. The ensuing invasion of the planet cost over two hundred thousand lives, and nearly twice that in casualties.

Brave men and women. She only hoped she could live up to their legacy. She saw other small craft floating near the hull, just forward of the massive fusion engines.

“Looks like almost everyone is here,” Silva said, glancing at his pockcomp.

“Who isn’t?”

“Fonesca.”

The key player.

They donned EVA suits and exited the small ship. Used to zero-g, Ackerman jetted toward the vessel and the flashing light noting the entry portal. She grasped the handle above the hatch and swung unto the hull. Portable lights lashed to the interior of the vessel showed the way.

She flew down a long corridor, used the suit jets to slow her progress, and pulled herself through an open hatch into an airlock. She immediately felt the gravity, and turned to see Silva enter. He pressurized the lock and she removed her helmet.

“Thank you for getting everything arranged,” she said.

Silva pulled off his helmet. “Just in time, too. The gravity generators were only installed twenty-four hours ago.”

They removed their suits and hung them beside seven others. Silva opened the inner airlock and Jane Ackerman, Prime Minister of the Senate World of New Queensland, stepped through into a large space. Several of the decks of the ship were missing, the space a ragged sphere in the middle of the ship. The edges of each deck were sharp and torn, and she saw patches on several large breaches in the hull. The others were here; they turned and looked when she entered.

“It’s about time you got here,” said General Belenko, the commanding officer of the ground forces of the Senate World of Endymion

“It’s very nice to see you, too, General.”

“Congratulations on your election to Prime Minister,” President Yamada of the Senate World of Yuli said.

“You are too kind, Mr. President.”

“Good grief,” said Imperial Naval Admiral Nigan Vaerak. A Druan Hominin from the world of Tula, he had the towering stature, bulging muscles, and extensive tattoos of that race. “Can we just get on with it? I’m taking a huge risk by being here.”

“Well-mannered, as usual, Admiral.”

“We’re all taking a risk,” said Imperial Exploration Vice-Admiral Darren Johnson. “Prime Minister, for you to be so late is disrespectful to us all.”

Ackerman looked at the assembled conspirators. “Do not lecture me about tardiness. If you cowards had followed through on your actions when we formed this little cabal, our backs wouldn’t be against the wall.”

“That’s hardly fair,” said Prime Minister Ban of Ixion. “We have all suffered. Since Her Majesty ascended the Throne seven years ago, the Union Security Service has done its best to expose us. If we had acted like you wanted, we’d all be dead.”

“You’re just afraid to get your hands dirty, Mr. Ban.” Ackerman suddenly saw Natalie Harker’s plump, choking face in her mind’s eye, and the guilt almost over-powered her. “We need to take risks. All of us. We need to do things …” Ackerman paused, her eyes filling with tears. “… things that we will live with to the end of our lives. But the burden is worth it.”

“She’s right,” said Admiral Rebecca Yolande of the New Odessa Navy. “We can no longer afford to make excuses. We wasted the ineffective rule of Nicolas through squabbling and hesitation.”

“We’ve had some victories,” said Senator Olivia Rothery of LaFontaine. “We successfully petitioned Nicolas to lower the Imperial tax on Senate Worlds to …”

“It’s always money with you, isn’t it?” Admiral Vaerak said. “You forget that you idiots in the Senate did not block the Her Majesty’s plan to impose Imperial recruitment quotas on the Senate Worlds. Our own people are being used against us!”

“Shall I list what the Senate has accomplished?” Senator Rothery said. “Not only did we get taxes lowered, but we lessened the influence of the Imperial Propaganda Corps on all Senate Worlds …”

“The Senate is riddled with spies and Imperial sympathizers,” Vaerak snapped.

“We need more allies in the Senate!”

All of them started shouting at each other. Their fears drive this discord. We’ve lost already. Ackerman suddenly heard a blaster shot. All of them turned to see Silva lower and holster his pistol.

“Let’s have a little order,” Silva said. “You people are the last best hope of freedom? God help us all.”

The assembled conspirators looked down or away. Ackerman could almost taste their shame. Good. “Let me summarize the situation for you all, so you’re clear on what’s at stake. Though we have had some successes, the time has come for us to act. Her Majesty needs to secure her power. The Colonization Initiative Act will expand her reach spinward. The resources harvested from these new worlds will make it almost impossible to match the Imperials’ power. Right now the GDP of the Senate Worlds roughly matches the hundreds of worlds conquered by the Imperials outside our sphere of influence, due to our advanced economies and high populations. Remember, almost 70% of the Human population is on Earth or the Core Worlds. This has been our strength for centuries, but the Destillières have long sought to upend this balance. This is the Exploration Service’s purpose, since, by Imperial law, no Senate World can undertake its own colonization efforts outside the Core Worlds, a law brutally enforced by the Imperial Navy.”

“The Prime Minister is correct,” Vice Admiral Darren Johnson said. “The Exploration Service is a tool of tyranny, and I am sick to death of it.”

“It’s hopeless,” Prime Minister Ban said. “The Senate Worlds may have power equal to the Imperials now, but the Destillières have the initiative. Plus, we are so divided! We all hate the Destillières, but we cannot agree on how to move forward.”

“We need to take stock of what we have,” Ackerman said. “Our network in the Exploration Service is invaluable, both as a source of information and the emplacement of key actors. The Senate is constrained by the constant need of its members to be on Earth, but Senator Rothery of LaFontaine, Senator Tolon of Tula, and Senator Lefevre of Earth are on key committees, and their security clearances grant us access to valuable information.” I must remember to thank Rothery for the classified report on The Anuvi Incident. “Admiral Vaerak is in the most dangerous position, given his responsibilities in the Home Fleet, but his information on Imperial fleet movements will be crucial in the future. The handful of Senate World leaders that are sympathetic to our cause will be there to support us with money and military force when we make our move, but they are not willing to precipitate any action.”

“That is our weakest point,” President Ban said. “Most of the Senate Worlds are tied to the Destillières through lucrative contracts. They will loath taking a risk that will affect their economies.”

“Yet another way the Imperials dominate us,” President Yamada said.

“That is true,” Ackerman said, “but their populations by and large have no love for the Destillières, despite the relentless Imperial propaganda. When the time comes, these leaders will recognize that.

“Fonesca is here,” Silva said, looking at his pockcomp.

“Charles Fonesca?” Vice-Admiral Johnson asked. “Who invited him?”

“I did,” Ackerman said.

“I’ve never trusted that man,” Rothery said. “He’s too close to the enemy. In my opinion, he’s going to sell us out at the first opportunity.”

“We need someone inside the Intelligence Directorate,” President Yamada said. “I agree with Prime Minister Ackerman, the benefits outweigh the risks.”

The hatch opened and Fonesca entered. I don’t trust him either. “Mr. Fonesca. I’m glad you could make it.”

Fonesca nodded. “Thank you, Prime Minister. I’ve got some news.”

“Good news, I hope.”

He looked at her; his brow was creased and his mouth was set in a grim line. “There’s something big brewing. I risked my life to get this information and bring it to you.”

“What is it?”

“Her Majesty is planning a Test of Sovereignty.”

“Where?” Admiral Vaerak asked.

“Borrega.”

“Shit.”

“I don’t get it,” said Prime Minister Ban. “What’s the big deal?”

Ackerman nodded at Vaerak, and the admiral spoke. “This is a bold move. The Test of Sovereignty has worked well for Destillières. In the years after United Earth’s dissolution, they annexed us one by one, because we were too busy squabbling with each other to resist. But they were generous, and restored the Senatorial rights and privileges of each world formerly of United Earth. They had to, because they did not have the military strength to face the Senate Worlds as a united force. If they had been too heavy handed, we would have fought them. They were playing the long game, a game they can afford to play because of the short-sightedness of our democracies. They played up the conquest of the former Snirr Empire and the expansion of the Imperial Navy as a means to secure our safety, but their real motive was to gain enough power to offset ours. We are in the endgame of that ploy. If they succeed in the Borrega Test, all of the Senate Worlds are lost, and we will be enslaved by the Imperials. Enslavement is the reason we fought so hard against the Snirr, but the Destillières are far more cunning than the Snirr ever were.”

“Can someone please explain this to me?” Senator Rothery asked.

“We’ve all read the report on the Anuvi Incident,” Fonesca answered. “A major figure of the Naati Command Authority died in the Battle of the Third Moon of Anuvi III. This death caused a rift in the Authority, and the Intelligence Directorate is exploiting that rift. The plan is to ally with one faction, the Tolkists, to defeat the other, the Reactionaries. The negotiations will take place on Borrega. In return, Her Majesty will promise to rebuild Borrega’s infrastructure, but her real plan is to annex it, whether the negotiations succeed or not. Borrega is strategically placed to make a direct strike to Naath, the Naati homeworld.”

“That will mean war with the Naati!” Vice-Admiral Johnson said.

“War with a race on the cusp of civil war.”

“This is to our advantage,” Rothery said. “The Senate Worlds, by law, can field their own defensive fleets and forces. This is what has kept the Imperials at bay, plus the need to defend the Union from alien enemies. A major war with the Naati will leave the Imperials too weak to fight our combined strength.”

“Let me lay it out for you,” Fonesca said. “If Her Majesty succeeds in allying with the Tolkist faction and crushing the Reactionaries, she can make whatever deals she wants. Plus, there is no longer a need to support the defense of the rimward border; those moneys can be freed up for other purposes. It is a risk for Her Majesty, but a calculated risk. If she succeeds, she will tip the balance of power in her favor.”

“What a bunch of bullshit,” General Belenko said. “This is misinformation to provoke us into taking action and revealing ourselves.”

“I don’t think so, General,” Admiral Vaerak said. “If Her Majesty moved directly against the Senate Worlds, we would fight her. If she defeats the Naati, she will increase her power immeasurably.”

“There is one more thing,” Fonesca said. “The principal architect of this strategy is her Minister for Intelligence, Robert McFinn.”

Ackerman felt like she had been slapped. Everyone looked at her, but she didn’t flinch. Oh Robert, what are you doing now? The plan was daring and intelligent, something she should have expected of her husband. I can fight the Destillières, but do I need to fight you, too? “Where are they in their plans?”

“The Directorate is still leaking intelligence to widen the rift in the Naati Command Authority. They expect it will be some time before the negotiations on Borrega take place.”

“We need to start planning now,” Ackerman said.

“For what?” Vice-Admiral Johnson asked.

“Coup d’etat.”

Everyone looked at her, their eyes wide and mouths open.

“You’re insane,” General Belenko said.

“I love the idea,” Admiral Vaerak said, a grin spreading across his tattooed face.

“This is an opportunity,” Ackerman said. “Despite what plans the Imperial Navy makes for the Borrega Test and war with the Naati, things always go wrong. Shit happens. This war will divert their attention from other threats, no matter what safeguards they have. Senator Rothery is correct.”

“I don’t know about this,” President Ban said. “Our original plan was to gain enough strength to cut a deal with the Imperials. This goes too far.”

“The Destillières are playing for keeps,” Ackerman said. “We need agreement on this, now.” She looked at all of them. “If the Destillières win, it will be over for all of us. There is no cutting deals or making compromises. We’ve been trying that for decades, and we have nothing. We’re still losing.”

“Let’s do it,” Admiral Vaerak said.

“I agree,” Senator Rothery said.

“I do, as well,” Vice-Admiral Johnson said.

“I’m in,” said President Yamada.

“So am I,” Admiral Yolande said.

No one else spoke.

“General Belenko?” Ackerman asked.

He looked at her, his wide face passive. “Your notion of ‘shit happens’ and things going wrong works both ways, Prime Minister. We have to deal with far more uncertainty than the Destillières.”

“Then work with us, General,” Ackerman said. “We need you.”

“All right. I’ll help.”

“Good.” Ackerman glanced at Fonesca, and he nodded. “President Ban?” she asked.

“If everyone else is in agreement, then yes, I’ll do my part. But I have one question for you, Prime Minister.”

“Yes?”

“Why didn’t you divorce that bastard McFinn when you had the chance?”

Her anger flared, hot and bright, but Ackerman kept her composure. “For the sake of my son. I loved his father at one time, and I still admire Robert McFinn.”

“Admire him?”

“He has abilities that will sorely test us. It is tragic he uses his talents for his own ends, rather than for the good of others.”

“You still think you can change him.”

The statement caught Ackerman off guard; she blinked and stepped back. Do I?

New excerpt from The Borrega Test

Bandele

 

“He can’t be trusted.”

Bandele regained consciousness just as this declaration was uttered. He resisted the temptation to touch his aching head or open his eyes; he soon discovered he couldn’t do the former because something bound his hands behind his back. He tasted something awful in his mouth and realized he was gagged.

“Why not?” said another voice.

“Because he’s one of them!

I’m one of them!

He realized they spoke Anglic, the common tongue of the Union. He had been speaking Shoresi almost exclusively for the last six years, so to hear his first language was a bit of a shock.

“He’s one of the few on Jala that can help us,” said the second, who used the native Ral name for the planet, rather than ‘Akaisha’.”

“Did you work with him?” said the suspicious one.

“Some. I was just assigned to Gunnarsson Outpost when he got transferred to patrol duty. His service on Jala was some sort of prison sentence.”

Do I know him? His voice does sound a little familiar.

“You mean he’s a criminal? How can we trust a criminal!?”

“You’re a criminal! Anyway, rumor has it the Union hung him out to dry as part of some sort of cover-up, so he has some motive to help. He did decide to stay on Jala after his sentence was finished. That must be worth something?”

“He’s probably a spy.”

“For the love of Fala! He did his work as assigned, and just walked out the front gates when he finished his sentence.”

“He did work with the Imperial Army patrols as a consultant, hunting us down.”

“That’s because he was supposed to. If he didn’t do what he was told they would have thrown him back in prison. Would you just relax? How much harm could he do? He looks eighty years old!”

“Well, wake him up.”

Bandele felt a splash of water over his entire body. Angry, he struggled, and realized they had tied him to a chair. He fell sideways and hit his head on a dirt floor, stars filling his vision.

“Get him up.”

Two figures appeared in Bandele’s blurry vision and he felt himself being pulled upright. One took the gag out of his mouth. The place was dark with a dirt floor, but he saw a faint light filtering in through gaps in the walls. It was a shanty, little better than the shack he called home, and the place was cold.

Bandele coughed and spit for a few moments. “Who the fuck are you?” He looked around as his captors slowly came into focus. One was obviously Human, but wore the common costume of the Ral in this part of the continent, a heavy colorful tunic over shirt and trousers. He had shaved the sides of his head, and a long braid hung over one shoulder. The other was a Ral, one of the native Hominins on Akaisha. He wore similar clothes, but had tattoos all over his face and arms and his shaved head. Even in this light Bandele saw the green tinge of the Hominin’s skin, the long skull and the wide jaw.

“He doesn’t blend in too easily, does he,” said the Ral. “He’s dressed like us, but with that black skin he sticks out like a hair on an ukur’s ass.” The Ral stepped closer. “Why are you in Kularin? You’re a long way from Akintola Spaceport. What are you doing here?”

“I live here, fuckwit. For the last six Earth years. Now, do you and your colleague want to untie me?”

“Why would we do that?”

“So I can ring your fucking neck, that’s why.”

“Just calm down, Bandele,” the Human said, “we’re not going to hurt you. In fact, we need your help.”

“Ah! The good guy bad guy routine. Am I supposed to know you?”

The two men looked at each other for a moment, then the Human spoke. “I’m Gary Tibilov. We served together for a few weeks back at Gunnarsson. Do you remember?”

“Yeah, I remember. You’re the snot-nose moron I trained to do my job. You still Exploration Service?”

“No. I walked away, like you did, and I think for the same reason.”

“And what would that be, Mr. Tibilov?”

“You know what the Union is really doing on Jala.”

There it was, tickling the back of his head: his conscience. Bandele sighed. “Untie me and bring me some water, okay? I promise not to kick both your asses.”

The two men laughed. Tibilov stepped forward and untied Bandele’s hands; he pulled a canteen from a pocket of his tunic and handed it to Bandele.

Bandele drank deep, sighed, and rubbed his wrists. “If you two wanted my help, why didn’t you just ask for it?”

“We don’t know if we can trust you,” the Ral said.

“What’s your name? From your tattoos I see you’re a high ranking member of Jala Resurgent.”

“I am Jala Resurgent. I am Morka Valans.”

The leader of the planetwide insurgency! But Bandele’s fear quickly gave way to anger. “How many people are you going to kill today? Will it be a stand-up fight? Or are you gonna bomb another market or school?”

Valans just smiled.

Bandele looked at Tibilov. “Have you thrown your lot in with these terrorists? If so, kill me now. I’m not going to help you.”

Valans looked at Tibilov. “I told you. He’s still one of them.”

Bandele spoke in Shoresi. “No. I’m not one of them. I’m me! And I’ve had enough ukurshit to last the rest of my life, short though it may be. Let me go and live in peace; I want no part in your revolution.”

“Bandele…”

“And you!” Bandele turned to Tibilov and spoke Anglic. “You’re a fool for walking away. The only reason I’m still on Akai-, Jala, is because I’m not permitted to leave. The Exploration Service, the USS, the Union, they all fucked me. They’ll never let me leave because of what I know, and believe me, I really want to get off this shitball of a world. So, unless you can find some way to get me off Jala, I’m not going to help you.”

Tibilov pulled up another wooden chair and sat on it reversed, his arms on the back. “And with all they’ve done to you, you still cower in fear.”

“That’s right! They’ve got all the power; they can lie and manipulate events to their favor with impunity. There is no way to fight them.”

“And so you’ll die on this shitball of a world, alone. Is that what you want?”

“Of course not. I’ll get off this rock on my own.”

“Escape plan, hmmm?” Tibilov smiled. “What if I were to tell you we can fight them. We know what they’re doing here, we just need to reveal that information to the rest of the people on this planet. Once that happens, revolution will be inevitable, but we need proof.”

“And how do you propose we do that?”

“You were stationed at Forward Outpost 39 for a Jala year.”

“Yes.”

“You know the layout of the place, the guard deployment, security features, that sort of stuff.”

“What the hell for?”

“We can get in and tap the Imperial network; input a tapeworm virus, gather information, and then get out.”

“Stupid idea. As Valans so eloquently pointed out, I stick out like a turd in a salad. The USS is watching me; I’m sure of it. One dumb move and I’m back in prison getting my ass violated. No way.”

“We can take care of the USS long enough for you to help,” Valans said.

“What about the collaborators? The Akaisha Union Militia? They have informants everywhere.”

“He’s right,” Valans said. “The Imperials stick to the garrison around Akintola, or hole up in the forward outposts, but the militia will spot him easily. It’s better he not come along; he can just give us the information.”

Tibilov sighed and looked at the Ral. “I thought you didn’t trust him?”

“Wait a minute,” Bandele said, rubbing the back of his head, “I told you, I’m not going anywhere. I need to stay here; it’s my only way off Jala.”

“Expecting rescue?” Tibilov smiled. “What would you say if we told the Union Militia or the USS you were already helping us? Or that you were planning escape? What then?”

Valans chuckled.

Bandele felt the anger press against the backside of his eyeballs. “You motherfuckers!”

“We will inform on you if we need to,” Tibilov said, “but we don’t want to do that. We want you to come willingly.” He stood. “Come on, you know what the Ral have gone through and how they’re getting fucked over by the Union, just like you did. Get a little payback, Bandele. It’ll feel great.”

“I don’t want to kill anyone.” Bandele looked at Tibilov. “Do you hear me? No killing!”

“We’ll take care of that,” Valans said, “I guarantee you.”

God-damn it! How do I get mixed up in this shit! It’s true, Bandele did have some sympathy for the Ral. United Earth abandoned the Ral as soon as they liberated the world from a century spent under the claw of the Snirr. Eighty percent of the population had died during the occupation, and the Ral had to begin rebuilding their ecologically destroyed planet alone. Then the Union came and demanded loyalty, and soon were exploiting the Ral for commercial profit.

The Ral had exchanged cruel masters for rapacious ones.

But it was one secret policy that pushed some of the Ral into rebellion, a policy in direct contradiction to the very founding act of the Hominin Union.

“Fuck! Okay. I’ll help you fuck those bastards; it seems I really don’t have a choice. But you gotta help me get off this rock when the time comes. Alright?”

Tibilov smiled. “You won’t regret this, Bandele.”

“I already have, believe me.”

The Borrega Test is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle

The Borrega Test, the sequel to The Anuvi Incident, is now available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle.

Fifteen years have passed since the incident in the Anuvi system. As the changes unleashed by that event ripple through the culture and society of the Naati, the Hegemony is driven to the brink of civil war. Sensing an opportunity, the Union sends Senator Frances Arrington as ambassador to negotiate with one of the Naati factions on the independent Human world of Borrega, located in the Neutral Zone. McFinn, long exiled to the glaciers and mountains of the planet Turrentine, is selected by a Very Important Person to act as attaché to the Ambassador. Unknown to all, a small religious sect on Borrega, tested by privation and battle, has other plans for the representatives about to arrive on their world. Looming in the background is the Hominin Union, driven by a history of war and death to unite all Human and Hominin worlds into one political entity, no matter what the cost.

With these events in motion, Dr. Hans Beckenbaur, geologist turned adventurer, tracks down Dr. Batista’s research while pursued by the shadowy forces of the General Intelligence Directorate. He believes he has discovered the location to another Harbinger artifact, and he sets out with Dr. Ferrel and the motley crew of the Trieste to discover the truth about the ancient alien race and its relationship to Humans, Hominins, and the Naati.

Or to die trying.

———————

“They’ve grappled us, Commander,” Cavanagh said. “Assault troopers are sliding across the grappling lines toward the main airlock. You’re going to want to see this.”

McFinn tapped a few keys on his pockcomp and the holographic image feed from the main airlock sensor appeared. Three Naati, in their dull gray armor, floated outside the airlock, and more moved along grappling lines toward the Coch. Each Naati had a large oblong object strapped to its chest.

“What the hell are those?” he thought. “Bombs?”

A Naati looked at the sensor and smacked it with a fist. The holographic image disappeared.

“They’re knockin’, Sergeant Cobrado. Get ready.” McFinn donned his helmet.

The next few moments seemed like an eternity. Smoke from damaged systems wafted by, and the emergency lights cast a red light throughout the entire deck. McFinn urinated in fear as he knelt and brought his ion rifle to bear, the warmth spreading onto his legs.

“Swell.”

The inner airlock door exploded with sparks and smoke, shrapnel whizzing by McFinn’s head. He heard an eerie keening sound, a high-pitched tone that seemed to warble and click simultaneously. It was so loud his helmet sensors cut the volume. The sound pierced his mind with fear, and if he hadn’t already urinated, he would have hearing that awful noise.

Oblong objects sprang from the smoke surrounding the airlock. Almost a blur, within a second they covered most of the twenty meters between the airlock and the Marines. Each object moved on four legs, leaping across the deck at great speed.

McFinn fired. Blaster fire hit several of the objects, but even more appeared, and bowled through the assembled Marines, knocking many of them over and shattering their defensive formation. One of the Marines stumbled and knocked McFinn against the bulkhead. McFinn rolled back and away. When he opened his eyes he saw the front part of one of the objects split into four long pieces and fold back, revealing the head of a beast: it had a huge mouth of razor sharp teeth, red feral eyes, and a multitude of spines on its head. The beast howled and bit the upper part of a Marine’s arm. With a sharp movement of its head, it pulled the arm free, armor and all. Blood sprayed out over the floor and the other defenders as the Marine screamed in pain.

McFinn rolled backwards and got to his feet. “Retreat!” he cried. “Retreat!” As he ran to the first emergency bulkhead, he looked over his shoulder and saw Marines and security personnel following him.

Review of The Anuvi Incident from TopShelfMagazine.net

It is very exciting to have The Anuvi Incident recognized by TopShelfMagazine.net.

4 out of 5 stars: Well-written sci-fi

A suspense filled, edge of your seat, thrill ride from beginning to end.

Overall, a well-written sci-fi that will keep you awake to read just one more chapter.

You can find the full review at TopShelfMagazine.net

You can purchase a hardcopy or Kindle edition at Amazon.com.