Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bitter Glory - Crimson Worlds Prequel

Bitter Glory is a prequel novella set in the Crimson Worlds universe.  It is part of a series of three planned short works, each covering the history of one of the major Crimson Worlds characters.  Tombstone was the first novella, providing backstory on General Jax.  Bitter Glory is a look back at the history of Admiral Garret and his first ship command.

Bitter Glory will be released next week.  It is a short work, about one-third the length of one of the novels, so if you don't like shorter stories, it's probably not for you (I'm not trying to discourage anyone from buying it, of course, but I want to make sure you all get what you expect).

So until next week, here's a sneak peak...


Bitter Glory

Chapter 1

Control Center - AS Wasp
In Earth Orbit

The command chair was surprisingly hard and immobile.  Garret would have sworn the small ridge along the back was designed specifically to poke him in the spine.  He’d ached to sit there for so long, but always in his imagination the captain’s seat was comfortable, inviting.  Now that he was there, shifting his weight awkwardly, he had a new thought…maybe the commander shouldn’t be too comfortable.  Perhaps to be in command was to be constantly on edge.

Whatever the truth, he would soon find out.  The privilege of command was now his, and the burden as well.  He’d longed for this day since he’d first donned his midshipman’s whites, and his service since then had been an uninterrupted road to the captain’s chair.  Garret was a brilliant officer, but he was cocky too.  His evaluation reports all said the same thing - he was a tactical genius with an uncanny ability to anticipate enemy maneuvers.  They also said he was audacious, even reckless…that he lacked caution.

He’d talked many times with one of the professors at the Academy about the heavy responsibility of being in that seat, of the sometimes terrible consequences of decisions that were the captain’s alone to make.  Captain Horn had been a decorated officer with a spotless record and an unimpeded trajectory to the admiralty.  Instead he ended up, years later, still a captain, but now behind a desk teaching midshipmen.  One of those decisions had gone horribly awry, but Garret never knew just what it was that had so affected Horn that he could no longer face the command chair.  He liked and respected Horn, but he was also young and arrogant enough to be sure nothing like that could ever keep him from his destiny.

Garret smiled as he glanced around the small control center, each of its five workstations gleaming white and silver.  Wasp was so new they were still peeling protective polymer wrapping off the equipment.  She was the second ship of the class to enter service, and she was all his.  He had already decided she was perfect…other than the hideous chair.

His crew hadn’t boarded yet.  Technically they were all still on leave like him, scheduled to report the next day….today, actually, as it was well past midnight, station time.  But Garret couldn’t stay away.  He’d wandered down to the bay, intending only to take a quick look at the ship sitting in her docking cradle.  It was quiet on the station, almost eerily so, with no one around except the skeleton crew working late night maintenance.

She was the most beautiful thing Garret had ever seen.  Aerodynamics wasn’t an issue in spacecraft design, but the Wasp had a sleek, streamlined hull anyway, largely because of the need to wrap the ship around its dual torpedo tubes.  The heavy plasma torpedoes were something new, and they made the Wasp a very dangerous vessel, with a punch that could hurt even a capital ship.  Nothing was free, of course, and that offensive power came at a high cost in sacrificed armor and defense.  The fast attack ships were known as “suicide boats” for a reason, though the crews tended to take the name as a badge of honor.

Garret admired his ship’s form, 102 meters of dark grey heavy metal alloy held in place by two large brackets and connected to the station by half a dozen snaking umbilicals.  They were almost done fueling the reactor; the food, equipment, and other supplies had already been loaded.  In another hour she’d be ready to go.

He had promised himself he wasn’t going to go aboard again tonight, but after standing in the docking bay for a while he couldn’t resist.  His captain’s credentials gave him 24 hour access, even though the ship was technically closed to all but maintenance personnel.  He climbed through the access portal and made his way methodically down the tube.  The umbilical was a zero gravity environment, and it was slow going, grabbing the handholds and sliding himself along.

The attack ships didn’t have the same level of artificial gravity as larger vessels.  When the ship was underway, the core would rotate, providing the feel of partial gravity to much of the vessel, but that would be half Earth-normal at best.  In the docking cradle she rotated along with the station, and once Garret climbed out of the tube he experienced a reasonable facsimile of the station’s 0.85 Earth-normal gravity.  It wasn’t actual gravity, of course, but it felt real enough.

He lost track of how long he’d wandered around the ship, prowling its empty compartments, before he ended up on the bridge, back in his uncomfortable but prized chair.  A capital ship had many levels and mazes of corridors, but Wasp was a vastly simpler vessel, with three decks, two above the spinal-mounted torpedo tubes and one below. Each deck was traversed by a single primary corridor with several small lateral accessways.  Serving aboard Wasp would be a cozy affair.

He leaned back in the command chair and breathed in deeply.  There was an odd collection of smells in the air, the scent of plastic packing materials mixed with faint burning odors from new systems activated for the first time.  Later today he would sit in this very spot and give the orders for Wasp to break free of the station’s embrace and begin her voyage to whatever destiny awaited her.  The Alliance was at war, so that future would no doubt include a considerable amount of combat.  Garret had no idea whether Wasp would be assigned to a battlegroup or a detached hunter squadron, but wherever she went, he was certain his crew would do their duty.  He would see to that.

He knew he should go back to his quarters on the station and get some sleep; the day ahead promised to be a momentous one.  But he couldn’t bring himself to leave the ship…his ship, and every time he shifted his body to go, he just ended up sliding around in the chair.  Eventually he closed his eyes, not sure if he was asleep, awake, or somewhere just on the cusp between the two.  His mind drifted back, dreamlike, over the years that led to this day, to his service as a junior officer, and further into the past…to a younger Augustus Garret what seemed like a lifetime ago.