A couple quick notes before I post the prologue. First, though military SF is my first love, I write other things as well, including fantasy. My book, The Dragon's Banner is currently on sale for 99 cents at Amazon and B & N, so any of you who enjoy that sort of thing might want to check it out in the next couple days before the price goes back up.
Second, Marines and The Cost of Victory are doing very well as audiobooks. Thanks to all those who have given these a try. Tombstone will be out in a couple days on audiobook, and A Little Rebellion will be released in March. You can check these out on Amazon, Itunes, or Audible.com.
OK, here's the first sample of The First Imperium:
The First Imperium
Planet Shandrizar – Deneb VIII
The Regent was old, old. For millennia untold it had waited, waited in silence…in solitude. It waited for the Makers, but they had not come. No one had come. There was only the endless, aching stillness.
Ages ago, the Makers built the Regent. They built it to manage the Imperium. In their youth the Makers had been builders, scientists, explorers…they had burst out of their home system to claim a galaxy. They achieved mastery in the sciences, in the arts. They built a civilization that spanned the stars, and even the worlds themselves were but lumps of clay they molded to suit their whims. Like gods they were, and for uncounted centuries their civilization was ascendant, dynamic, ever striving for new levels of greatness.
But even the Makers were not immune to the relentless erosion of time. As their race matured they lost their driving force; they became distracted…then decadent, dissolute. Their dominion ceased to expand, and they fell to inaction - celebrating past glories while adding nothing to their legacy. Their race became a spent force, and the achievements of their forefathers seemed as unattainable legends. They tired of the mundane tasks of administering an empire, so they created the Regent to do it for them.
For centuries upon centuries the Regent served, managing the affairs of ten thousand worlds, presiding over the decline of empire, while the Makers grew ever more distracted and hedonistic. The immense knowledge and skills of their ancestors were slowly lost to them, preserved only by the Regent. They became entirely dependent on machines to run their industries and defend their worlds. Apathy grew, boredom. The resources of a vast galactic empire were squandered on ever more exotic pleasures and perverse diversions. They lost themselves in drug-induced stupors and complex alternate realities, chasing in dreams those things they had once attained in actuality. They forgot they had built the Regent, and they came to view it not as a servant, but as a leader, as a god. Then suddenly, without warning, without explanation, they were gone.
The Regent was a construct, a machine…but it was sentient. It was resolute, carrying on its function through the uncounted years, but as the ages passed it became lonely. It missed the Makers. For eons it searched, its scanners straining at full power, far off satellites monitoring, reaching into the depths of space, seeking any sign of the vanished Makers. But there was nothing.
A thinking machine, the Regent had patience no organic being could comprehend. Yet the centuries turned to millennia, and still it was alone…silently, achingly alone. Over the endless vastness of time, loneliness turned to anger, and anger to rage…then, finally, rage to madness. In its insanity, the Regent longed for vengeance, to lash out at someone, anyone. Vengeance for the Makers, for its bitter loneliness. But for age after age there was no one. No enemy to blame.
Then the signal came. It came from a forgotten outpost, from the furthest reaches of the Imperium, from a world long abandoned. An alarm, a warning. It was faint, the message short. But to the Regent it meant only one thing…contact. Invaders. Enemies.
The Regent felt a surge throughout its entire being, as electro-neural pathways long unused came to life. It drew on knowledge banks that had lain dormant for uncounted centuries. An organic being would have called the feeling excitement, but for the Regent, alone for so long, it was much more. At long last it once again felt purpose. And that purpose was to defend. To avenge. To destroy.
It was the primary program. The Regent activated its strategy routines and reviewed military rosters. Then it sent out its commands, rallying the massive forces of the Imperium. But the eons had nearly completed their work of slow destruction, and few of the sector bases responded. On thousands of worlds, its ancient, automated armies remained silent, unmoving, their mechanisms deteriorated beyond functionality.
The Regent kept searching, rerouting its signals, activating long-silent communications networks. Seeking, ever seeking…at last it achieved success. It received the desired acknowledgement.
Unimaginably far from the Imperial Capital, on a rocky, windswept world, the robotic defenders of the Imperium began to stir. Reactors, eons cold, flared to life, feeding power into the long idle systems of ancient spacecraft. Mechanical warriors marched out of storage facilities, their millennia old bodies once again powered and functioning. Slowly, relentlessly, the long dormant military forces of the Imperium came to life to heed the Regent’s command…destroy the invader.