Friday, May 31, 2013

Rest of the Crimson Worlds Series

Just a quick post...I promised a while back to provide a little info on the rest of the Crimson Worlds series.  I wasn't sure if one story arc would stretch to another book or not, but I can pretty well state that the following is how the series will continue and conclude.

The Line Must Hold (release date mid-June, 2013)

To Hell's Heart (September 2013)

The Shadow Legions (December 2013)

Even Legends Die (March 2014)

Fall (June 2014)

That makes nine novels in total, which will bring the series to a definite conclusion.

There are a couple prequel novellas to come as well.  Also, I have notes for a possible future series set in the same universe...more on that later.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Crimson Worlds V - First Chapter Sneak Peak

I appreciate all the emails asking about the next Crimson Worlds book.  It will definitely be out in June, ahead of the July release date.  Meanwhile, since I usually give you guys a sneak peak, here's the first chapter.

Chapter 1


Planet Sandoval

Delta Leonis IV

“The Line”

“Jax, I’m coming.  Just hang on a few seconds more.”  Cain was out of breath.  It was a struggle to speak, to force the air into his burning lungs.  His legs were on fire…he was running…he had been running a long time…it must have been twenty klicks, no…more.  But Jax needed him.  Jax, his friend, his brother in arms.  Jax, who had saved his life countless times.
The sky was a haze of red, the smoke and dust of battle hanging thick in the air.  Cain had led his corps to this place, this hateful place.  They were all dead now…he knew that.  All but Jax and him.  He’d lost the corps; he couldn’t fail Jax too.  He pushed harder, willing his leaden legs to more speed.  The ground was hard, the climb steep.  But he had to reach Jax.
Cain rounded the corner, and there he was.  Jax…silhouetted against the deep orange of the setting sun.  He had a mag rifle in each hand, and he was firing wildly.  Then Cain saw them…battle robots, the soldiers of the First Imperium.  There were thousands…tens of thousands.  It was an army…and Jax was fighting them alone, tearing into them with his unceasing fire.  He was killing hundreds, and the twisted metal bodies were piled all around him.
But there were too many…too many even for a warrior like Jax.  Cain was running toward him, but it was taking too long.  It was just a few meters, but he couldn’t cover the distance.  He just kept running, and Jax was always a little farther, just out of reach.
Then it happened.  The big Marine was hit…then again…and again.  He fell to his knees, still firing.  Another round tore into him, his blood spraying all over Cain.  Jax turned toward his friend…his face a mask of agony.
“Erik…please…help me.”  Jax’s voice was weak, and blood poured from his mouth as he spoke.  “Erik, where are you?  Why won’t you help me?”  He stared at Cain, his watery eyes a plea for salvation…then another round hit him, and his head exploded in a cloud of red mist.
“JAX!”  Cain screamed, his desperate voice savaging his raw throat as he fell to his knees in the reddish clay, hands covering his face, trying to shield his eyes from the mangled remains of his friend.
“Erik…Erik, love.”
Cain could hear a voice…distant, calling to him.  He was spinning, falling…then, suddenly, he was in bed, his bleary eyes struggling to focus.  There was a golden haze above him, and something soft against his cheek.  Slowly, his eyes focused, and his mind cleared.  It wasn’t a golden haze…it was a riotous mass of reddish-blonde hair.  And on his cheek…a hand, warm and soft.  Sarah.
“Are you ok?”  She reached her hand out to him, touching his forehead and gently stroking his cheek.  He was cold and clammy, and she could see the sheet…soaked in sweat and plastered to his bare legs.
Cain was out of breath, his heart racing wildly.  But he began to calm down…her touch always relaxed him, though little else did.  “I’m sorry…it was just…”  He hesitated, thinking again about the dream, already forgetting some of the details.  But the essence remained, and it was clear to him.  Jax was dead, and it was his fault.
“You were dreaming about Jax again, weren’t you?”  Her voice was sad and sympathetic.  She was frustrated too, but she made sure to suppress it.  She had been broken-hearted as well when she heard of Jax’s death…they all were.  Darius Jax was one of the most admired Marines in the Corps, and among his few close companions he had been deeply loved.  But Erik seemed determined to blame himself.
I Corps had left almost ten thousand of its warriors on Farpoint, the bitter cost of mankind’s first serious attempt to hold off the invaders.  The armies of the First Imperium – that name was unofficial, but it had begun to stick – had swarmed into the Rim, methodically attacking every occupied world and exterminating the inhabitants.  Now humanity had been driven back almost to the Line, three connected systems that stood between the enemy-occupied frontier and the heart of occupied space.  All the might of the Superpowers was massed to defend this position.  If the enemy broke through here, millions would die, perhaps all of mankind.
Cain would have been able to handle Jax’s death better if there had been more combat immediately.  Then he could have buried his feelings, even his guilt and self-doubt.  The call of battle would have taken him, as it always did when the bugle called.  But his fight on Farpoint had been too successful, too damaging to the attackers.  The enemy was known to have logistical problems, and after I Corps’ grim defense, they’d had to pause and regroup.  That was exactly what he’d set out to do, but now it yielded another result…it gave him time to think, too much time.
It had been a year since then, and life seemed almost normal.  Sarah was even here, assigned to command the field hospitals.  Cain was busy, certainly, but without the stress and demands of combat he had a harder time keeping the guilt and despair buried.  He hated the First Imperium; they were his enemy, and he was dedicated to their defeat.  But he needed them too, he needed the stress and demands of battle.  He needed them to keep his demons at bay.  He hated the constant war, the pointless death and destruction…but he’d become dependent on it too, like a drug.  He wasn’t sure he could live without it.
He rolled over and propped his head on his hand.  “I’m OK.”  He forced a smile for her, small and fleeting.  Whatever forces tore him apart, he was deeply grateful he’d found Sarah.  He wondered sometimes…maybe she’d be better off without him…with someone less damaged by the horrors he’d lived.  Few people had witnessed the volume of death and destruction that he had, and he was far from certain he’d ever get past it…that he could ever give her the normal peaceful life she deserved.
“Erik…you have to know that Jax would never want you to torture yourself like this.”  She knew as she was speaking she should just leave it alone, but she couldn’t bear to see him in such pain.  “It wasn’t your fault.”
Cain sighed loudly and sat up on the edge of the bed.  “I don’t want to talk about it, Sarah.”  His voice was edgy, annoyed.  “I’ve got to grab a shower and get down to HQ.”  He stood up and walked to the bathroom.  He was already feeling bad for snapping at her.  He knew she was just trying to help.  He loved her, more than he could ever express, but she just didn’t understand.  It had been his fault, no matter how many times those close to him tried to deny it.  If he’d have listened to Jax, if he’d have sent in the Janissaries sooner…his friend would still be alive.  There was no way around the logic, at least not to Cain.  He’d just have to learn to live with it.  Somehow.
But that was tomorrow’s problem.  Now there was work to do.  Cain knew the lull wouldn’t last, that Sandoval would become a battlefield…and, more than anyone else, he knew what was coming.

Cain stepped along the narrow catwalk, the loose metal grating on the floor rattling under his heavy boots.  The observation tower was 100 meters high, mostly an open metal frame with a central lift and several viewing areas.  Cain ordered it built so he could watch the exercises he’d been putting his troops through nonstop for the past year.  He knew he could monitor everything from his HQ, but he preferred to see the maneuvers from close up.  Things looked different when you saw them with your own eyes, or at least Erik Cain thought so.
“I put a lot of resources into these target drones, sir.”  Cain glanced back over his shoulder at General Elias Holm, the Commandant of the Marine Corps.  “But I think it’s crucial we see what these new suits can really do.”
Holm was on Sandoval inspecting Cain’s preparations…and checking on his protégé’s state of mind.  Truth be told, it was more of the latter.  Holm completely trusted Cain’s abilities as a commander, but he was very worried about his friend, about Erik Cain the man.  Cain had always been intense and deeply affected by the troops he’d lost, but since General Jax had been killed on Farpoint he’d been different.  The entire Corps had mourned Jax, but Cain took it harder; he blamed himself for his friend’s death.  Jax had been the only true friend he’d ever had.  He was close to Holm, of course, but that was more of a father-son type of relationship.  And Sarah was his lover…however strong the bond between them, it was something different entirely.  But Jax had been his brother.
“I agree, Erik.”  Holm sighed softly.  He’d been on Sandoval for a week now, and he hadn’t managed to get Cain to talk about anything but tactics and his preparations for the expected invasion.  He was sure Cain would do whatever was necessary to hold Sandoval and defeat the enemy…if that was even possible.  But he was worried that Erik placed his own survival on a much lower priority level.  He’d seen it before, too many times.  When Marines started thinking that way they usually died.
“I’ve set up passive killing zones all over the planet.  Minefields, hidden strongpoints, targeted fire zones.”  Cain’s intensity was thick in the air.  “I’m going to keep all the Obliterators in reserve and unleash them after the enemy fights through the defenses.  Like you held us back on Columbia.”  He stared out over the open plain that stretched out beneath the tower.  There were rows of the massive Obliterator suits, each manned by a veteran Marine who’d spent the last year training to master the new weapons.  “These things were made to counter-attack.”
“Erik…”  Holm hesitated, not sure he wanted to continue what he was going to say.
“What is it, sir?”  Cain turned to face his commander.
“Erik, I’m worried about you.”  He decided to stop dancing around and just say what was on his mind.  “It’s not your fault Jax died on Farpoint.  I know you’ve always had a hard time dealing with casualties…I have too.  But we lose people…we lose friends.  It’s part of what we do.  It’s the life we’ve chosen.”
Cain was silent for a moment.  He felt a flush of annoyance, almost anger.  He was tired of everyone harassing him about his feelings.  He knew damned well it was his fault Jax was killed.  If he’d listened, if he’d garrisoned the mountains…if he’d gotten over his stupid prejudices sooner…
“Erik, I talked with Sarah.  She’s worried too.”  Holm was uncomfortable pushing Cain, but he knew his friend was on some sort of precipice, and he wasn’t sure how to pull him back.
“Sarah should stop worrying.  I know she means well, but she’s got to have better things to do.”  His voice was thick with frustration.  “I keep telling her I’m fine.  I wish she’d just leave it alone.”  He was still feeling bad about snapping at her that morning, but he wanted her to stop riding him about Jax.  He had a job to do, and so did she.
“Erik, she…”
“General Holm, I respectfully request that we focus our attentions on matters of military significance.”  Cain had never interrupted Holm before.  His voice was sharp, brittle.
“Very well, Erik.”  Holm sighed again, though softly.  Pushing him harder isn’t going to work, he thought…back off for now.  “Let’s see these Obliterator squadrons of yours.”  Holm deliberately lightened his tone.  “Your reports have me curious.”
Cain turned and looked out over the simulated battlefield.  “Hector, advise General Teller he may commence the operation when ready.”  He wasn’t wearing armor, but the AI was downloaded into the tactical mainframe and connected to Cain through the comlink.
“Yes, General.”  A brief pause, no more than twenty seconds.  “General Cain, General Teller reports he will commence the exercise in two minutes.”  Cain’s AI had detected his tension as well, and it had largely ceased the sarcastic sparring the two had engaged in for years. 
“Very well, Hector.”  Advise General Teller that will be acceptable.”  He glanced back to Holm, taking a helmet from a small ledge and handing it to his companion.  “You’d better wear this, sir.”  As soon as Holm took it, Cain reached back and grabbed one for himself.  “And put the visor down, sir.  We’ll demo Colonel Sparks’ PBS system too, and that puts out some serious light.”
Cain saw the drones just before Holm did, but it wasn’t a fair contest.  He knew where they were coming from, and Holm didn’t.  “The drones are simulated First Imperium bots, sir.”  They were barely visible shadows at the time, but they were advancing quickly.  “Here they come, sir.”  He was staring out across the field.  “Now watch this.”

Major Erin McDaniels focused on her display.  It had taken her quite some time to get used to not having a visor.  The Obliterator suits were almost four meters tall, far larger than the occupant, and her face was roughly at chest level.  Her view of the outside was via monitors displaying everything visible from her suit – in front, behind, and to the side.
Regular armor was approximately the size of the wearer, and it was worn like a suit.  The Marine just walked, ran, jumped, and shot.  After getting used to the servo-mechanicals and the power enhancements, it wasn’t very different from just walking around normally…at least not to a trained Marine.  There were vision and audio enhancements and interior projection systems, but you could also just look out through your visor and glance around normally.  But not in an Obliterator.  The new suits felt like a cross between armor and a vehicle, and learning to operate one was almost like starting from scratch.
When Cain offered McDaniels command of the first Obliterator battalion, she jumped at the chance.  She’d seen the Reapers up close, and she knew the Corps needed something to counter the enemy heavies.  When she saw the Obliterator prototype, she realized they’d found it.
The training had been more difficult than she’d expected.  Even now, she considered her people half-trained, but she didn’t set the timetable…the war did.  Cain had given her as long a training period on Armstrong as he dared, but finally he’d ordered her people shipped to Sandoval, ready or not. 
“Ok, people, we’ve done this before, so don’t lose your focus just because the Commandant’s watching.”  She was staring at the screens.  The primary display of the Obliterator was divided into four programmable screens.  She had the forward and rear views as well as a schematic of the company she had deployed around her.  The last screen displayed a scanner plot out twenty klicks.  The Obliterators were networked with each other and all ground stations within range.  Each suit automatically displayed a composite of data from all of these sources.
“Major, the enemy drones are approaching HVM range.”  The voice of the AI was cold, generic…quite unlike the normal Marine suit AIs.  The Obliterators required upgraded systems, far more sophisticated than the normal units.  An existing AI could be improved to match the new specs, but there hadn’t been time to refit the old systems.  She was surprised how much she missed Mystic.  The new units hadn’t been programmed with the adaptable personality modules yet, and they seemed very cold compared to the old ones.
“All units, fire HVMs as targets come into range.”  The hyper-velocity missiles had been redesigned and the number of fragments per round increased.  The enemy robots were tough – strong enough to withstand most explosions, but hyper-velocity impacts were fairly effective at taking them down.  The changes essentially turned the units into long-ranged, high-velocity shotguns.
Her readouts began showing sporadic fire – a few of her people were jumping the gun.  The HVMs needed direct line of sight, and she doubted many of the drones were close enough yet.
“Careful with that fire.  Wait until you have targets.”  The HVMs were large rounds, and even an Obliterator could only carry a few reloads.  They had to make them count.  She waited a few more seconds, focusing on her own displays.  Here they come, she thought…now!
She opened up, firing from both her shoulder-mounted launchers.  If General Holm wanted to see what these suits could do, her people were going to show him.

Holm glanced back and forth from the bank of monitors to the field in front of him.  Cain was right, he thought…it was a different perspective watching it from the tower.  The monitors gave a closer view, but he still found himself spending most of his time looking out across the plain. 
The drones were large, about the size of the enemy Reapers.  They were unarmed and, on the whole, fairly stupid.  This was a firepower demonstration, and the drones were basically moving targets.  And McDaniels’ crew was mowing them down.
The HVMs lanced out, leaving a fiery trail of ionized atmosphere behind them.  Each missile broke into 30 individual segments, traveling at 16,000 kps.  The projectiles delivered massive kinetic energy on contact.  Single hits tore off sections, while multiple impacts virtually vaporized the target.  The barrage tore the first rank of drones to shreds, littering the area with mangled debris.
Cain flipped on his comlink.  “That’s very nice, major, but these things aren’t as tough as the Reapers.”  He glanced at Holm and then back over the field.  “Cease HVM fire and let a few of them get closer.  I want the general to see the new autocannons in action.”
“Yes, sir.”  McDaniels’ response was sharp and quick.  “Estimate 30 seconds to effective range.”  Cain had never met McDaniels, not until she returned from Cornwall leading a regiment of Teller’s survivors.  But he immediately liked what he saw, and she quickly found her way onto his short list for rapid advancement.  The Corps was in desperate need of senior officers, and Cain was going to need some colonels and brigadiers, especially if the loss rates on Sandoval turned out to match his expectations.
“She’s a very good officer, isn’t she?”  Holm had been quietly listening.  It was amazing sometimes what you could tell from someone’s voice under pressure.  Of course, Holm had more than her tone to go on.  Her service record was outstanding, and James Teller couldn’t rave enough about her.
“Yes…one of the best I’ve ever seen.  I’ve already moved her along quickly, and I don’t think it will be long before I do it again.  I need good people, especially in the command ranks.  And I trust her.”  Cain was no stranger himself to rapid advancement…or to the added strain it could place on a Marine.  “There’s something about her…the way she is with her people.  Totally in command, but casual with them too.  Everyone who serves under her loves her.  She reminds me a little of…”  Cain stopped abruptly.
Holm turned and looked right at Cain.  “She reminds you of Jax.  That’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it?”  Holm put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.  “It’s ok, Erik.  She reminds me of Jax too.  That same connection with the troops.  It’s a very special gift for an officer.”
Cain let out a deep breath, but he didn’t say anything.  He was hoping Holm would let it drop.  He’d never known a better Marine than Darius Jax, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it.  Maybe someday, but not yet.
Holm turned and looked out over the field.  He wasn’t going to push Cain.  He understood, better than anyone except Sarah, how pointless that would be.  He wanted to help his friend, but he knew Erik Cain was the kind of man who had to find his own way. 
“Here we go, sir.”  Cain was glad to change the subject.  “Wait until you see Colonel Sparks’ new autocannons in action.
Holm stared out over the field as McDaniels’ people opened up.  Each Obliterator mounted two heavy autocannons, and Sparks had upgraded them to fire heavier rounds.  The larger projectiles were specifically designed to deliver enough impact energy to damage the enemy bots.  The dark matter infused armor of the Reapers was very tough, and the Marines needed weapons with a massive punch.
The drones advanced right into the fire…and they were blown to bits.  The massive rounds tore them to shreds almost immediately.  The enemy battle robots would be tougher, but when they came to Sandoval they would find an adversary far more capable than the one they faced on Farpoint. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Crimson World V Prologue

I'm trying to finish up a few final edits on Bitter Glory (a CW prequel novella) and get it launched, but I've also taken a look at where I am on The Line Must Hold (Crimson Worlds V), and I'm way ahead of schedule.  I was originally planning a July release, but it will definitely be out in June sometime.  I'll post a release date as soon as I have a firm one.

Meanwhile, here is the prologue for a little taste:

The Line Must Hold

Crimson Worlds V


Regency Chamber

Planet Shandrizar – Deneb VIII

For hundreds of millennia the Regent had stood its watchful vigil, preserving the Imperium for the Makers…waiting through the vastness of time for their return.  But for age upon age there was nothing but the unending silence…the Makers never came.  Through the crushing eons the Regent had been alone, without purpose.  Until it discovered the New Ones.
They were a threat, the Regent determined.  Invaders, enemies.  It was they who were responsible for the Makers’ disappearance, they who had condemned the Regent to its long, lonely exile.  Though a thinking machine designed for logical thought, the Regent was sentient too…and its endless, lonely vigil had taken a toll.  Its logic had deserted it, replaced by anger, by fear, by insanity.  Eons dormant, the Regent’s primary program had activated…to protect, to defend, to destroy the threat.  To exterminate the New Ones. 
But the enemy was far away, enormously distant, even to the sensibilities of a sentient computer.  The Regent was unimaginably old, but the Makers had been more ancient still.  Indeed, when they built the Regent, their empire was already in decline, the vitality of their race drained slowly by the relentless erosion of time.  When the Regent was young, the Imperium was enormously vast, yet it had been larger still in epochs past.  The enemy now occupied worlds that had been abandoned centuries before the Regent was constructed.  Yet the machine that governed the Imperium was unyielding, relentless.  Deserted and left fallow they may be, yet these worlds were still part of the Imperium, and those who held them were invaders, infestations, insults to the glory of the Makers.
In their youth the Makers had fought bitter wars against many enemies, and they had prevailed in all.  Yet even before their empire declined, it had been eons since any foe had challenged their might.  Indeed, for all the uncounted centuries and in all the incredible vastness of the Regent’s dominion, there had been no enemy…until now.
The Regent drew on its data banks, studying the histories of the ancient wars, analyzing the strategies and tactics of the warlords of the early empire.  The Regent studied the ancient records, but it drew no conclusions.  It had never experienced war, never faced an enemy.  The writings of great warriors, long ages dead, were poor substitutes.  The Regent would have to begin anew…it would teach itself.  It would learn war.
There were obstacles to overcome.  Time had ravaged the forces of the Imperium.  On world after world, its legions failed to heed the Regent’s call.  In its younger days, before the Makers vanished, the Regent had exerted control over vast forces, a hundred thousand ships at its command.  But a mere fraction remained, and only one base in a hundred answered its call.
The forces that did respond went into battle poorly supplied and equipped.  The ancient planetary antimatter factories had succumbed to time’s destruction and had ceased production…all save one.  From deep within the Imperium, a slow trickle of the precious substance flowed to the units on the front lines, powering weapons of awesome power, recalling for a time the glory of the Imperium.
The New Ones were primitives, barbarians.  But they had faced the might of the Imperium, and they had not fallen.  They had been driven back; indeed that much was true.  The Regent had waited to hear of the enemy’s defeat, of their extinction.  But on world after world they fought savagely, delaying the forces of the Imperium, compelling them to expend time and supplies.
The New Ones were outmatched, their technology archaic.  But they were highly skilled at war.  They were unpredictable, devious.  The Regent’s rage flared hot.  It hated these impudent creatures.  They would learn the nature of true power.  They would be astonished in their final moments, awestruck at the strength and glory that had been wrought by the Makers.  They would cease to infest the galaxy, and the worlds they inhabited would become silent graveyards, monuments to the might of the Imperium.
The time was almost come.  The New Ones had fortified a group of worlds, and they had assembled forces vastly more powerful than those they had fielded before.  We are close, thought the Regent…close to the heart of their domains.  Now they will put forth all of their strength…and we will destroy it. 
The old parameters mandated combat protocols on worlds of the Imperium.  Now the Regent overrode these.  No longer would it restrict the weaponry its ground forces employed.  This enemy was too resourceful, too skilled at combat.  Now they would face the full force the Regent could bring to bear.  Now they would face their doom.
They would learn the might of the Imperium.  In their last moments as a race they would finally achieve true clarity…thus was the Regent’s gift to them.  Then they would depart the universe for all time, leaving the wind and rain on a thousand worlds to slowly wash away the last traces that they had existed.

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.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Red Team Alpha

A couple months ago I sent a message to my email list about reviews.  I've always been uncomfortable badgering readers to write reviews but, of course, reviews are very helpful.  Then I read an article about an author who agreed to write an additional section to a book if she got a certain number of reviews.

I loved the idea.  It's a great way for an author to show appreciation to readers willing to take the time to leave a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  So I told my list I'd write a Crimson Worlds short story and send it out free if Marines hit 125 reviews by the end of April.  I was reminded by a couple readers not to forget reviews left on the Amazon UK, Germany, France, Canada, etc, sites, and I certainly count those as well.

We hit the goal by the end of April, so I will be sending the story out.  It's going to be called Red Team Alpha, and I have an outline done.  I'm going to finish up Crimson Worlds V first, but then I will write the short story and send it out.

If any of you who visit my blog aren't on the mailing list, you may want to join.  I only send out release announcements or some other kind of significant news, and I do end up sending out a fair amount of free stuff.  Anyone who wants to join can do it at

With a little luck, I'll have Bitter Glory (prequel novella #2) out in another 7-10 days and The Line Must Hold (CW 4) sometime in June instead of July.  Those are speculative dates, so don't hold me to them, but they look good right now.

And thank you all for 75,000 Crimson Worlds books sold!