I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who helped and encouraged me to finish Refusing Excalibur and get it out to the masses.
I would like to thank Bubblecow for the editorial services of Paul Simpson, who provided invaluable feedback and help make Refusing Excalibur the best novel it could be. I would also like to thank Gary Smailes for connecting me with Denise Baker for the final proofread.
I would like to thank Denise Baker for her excellent work cleaning up Refusing Excalibur for publication.
And I would like to thank Bookbaby for helping me get Refusing Excalibur to the market.
A small boy darted between trellises, his hand clutching an action figure. Victor had no idea if the well-articulated toy was a man in armor or a robot, but his son, Alex, seemed to think it could fly, based on the way he ran around, holding the toy before him, while he made whooshing sounds.
“I’d say that toy you got him was a hit,” Gina said, lying next to Victor on the tarp laid out over the grass adjacent to the vineyard Alex played in. Her light brown hair, fairer than the black hair of most Savannans, shook in a breeze, carrying the freshwater scent of Lake Valor. Alex had inherited his mother’s hair, though the rest of him, including his prominent nose and long face, came from Victor.
“He asked for it for his birthday. It was the least I could do after missing the previous one. Can’t remember what it’s called though,” Victor said.
“The Guardian.” Gina sighed. “He’s been going on about it ever since he saw an ad for it. You do realize it’s for six-and-up, right?”
Victor shrugged. “Five’s close enough, I think. And I made sure to remove all the spring-loaded weapons before I gave it to him.”
“He’ll ask for those back,” Gina said.
“Yes, but that’ll be your problem.” Victor kissed his wife on the lips. “I’ll be light years away by the time he thinks to ask.”
She poked him in the chest. “You louse. I swear you cheated at that coin flip.”
“I let you pick the coin, remember?”
. You still could’ve switched them.” Gina was quiet for a moment and then said, “So what’s the next plan for ending this war?”
“You know I don’t like to talk shop, Gina,” Victor said.
“First, I used to have the same job as you. Second, I’m not talking shop. I’m talking the future of our son.” She glanced toward Alex while the boy wove the Guardian between trellises in his make-believe flight.
Victor sat up and rested his arms on his knees. “Well, there isn’t a ‘next plan.’ We’re still on the same plan.”
“Stay bottled up in our home system until the Lysandrans get tired of us,” Gina said.
“Yes, with some commerce raiding and asymmetrical operations to encourage them to call for an armistice,” Victor said.
is a nice way of saying
He looked away. “We’re destroying their star freighters faster than they can build them. They’ll have to sue for peace eventually. If for no other reason than because continuing this war will ruin their economy."
“And what about our economy?” Gina asked.
“And yet we’re still fighting. What’s to say the Lysandrans won’t do the same?” Gina asked.
Victor leaned closer to his wife. “We’re fighting on our doorstep. We don’t have supply lines to defend. The Lysandrans do. And we’re constantly raiding those. Sooner or later, Emperor Magnus will have to turn his fleet around and go home.”
“So we’ll win the war because we’ve lost?” Gina’s brows furrowed. “I’ve never taken you for someone prone to doublethink, Victor.”
“I’m not doublethinking,” Victor said. “We’re in a very strong defensive position. Even with their numerical advantage, the Lysandrans can’t force their way into the system.”
“They forced their way into every other system that we tried to defend,” Gina said.
“Not here, not with the entire Republic Navy ready to smash any and every Lysandran ship that comes through the Arcadia jump point,” Victor said.
Gina gave him a hard look. “What if they fail, Victor? What if the Lysandrans still break through?”
Victor glanced at his son as he ran around the vineyards with the Guardian in hand, then turned back to his wife. “Then we run. You, me, and Alex. We board the
and make for the Free Worlds.”
Gina arched an eyebrow. “You’ve been thinking about this.”
“What about the
“They bring their families too,” Victor said.
“You’ve discussed this with them?”
“Very circumspectly, yes.”
“A cruiser isn’t a passenger ship.”
“It’ll be crowded, yes. We’d have to put people into hibernation to keep from burning through our consumables too fast.”
“We’ll still need to replenish those eventually.”
“Yes.” Victor nodded. “We’ll sell our services to one of the Free Worlds, run cargo, or even go pirate if needed. Whatever it takes to keep us moving. At least until we find a safe place to settle.”
Gina rested her head on Victor’s chest. “Would anywhere be safe?”
“Somewhere. If not, I’ll make it safe.”
Gina lifted her head off his chest, smiled, and then kissed him. “I know you will.” She turned to see Alex running up with his toy. “You ready to go inside, kiddo? Grandma’s probably fixed lunch by now.”
“Can I bring the Guardian with me?” Alex asked.
“Only if he can sit still.” She looked at Victor. “And the same applies to you.”
Victor stood and helped up his wife. “You and Alex go ahead. I want to talk to Daniel before eating lunch.”
Gina gave him a sad look and cupped the side of his face. “All right. Just be sure to come back before your food gets cold, or you know I’ll never hear the end of it from your mother.”
Victor took her hand and held it. “I will.” He let go and knelt in front of his son, mussing his light brown hair. “I’ll see you soon, little guy.”
“I’m not little,” Alex said.
Victor nodded. “No, I suppose not.” He stood and turned to walk up a low hill overlooking Lake Valor.
“Hello, Dan. Nice day, huh?” Victor said.
The gravestone with the name
carved on its face didn’t respond.
“Your nephew just turned five,” Victor continued. “I got him a nice, expensive, and age-inappropriate toy for his birthday. You’d like it. The Guardian, it’s called.”
Daniel’s gravestone didn’t have any comment on that either.
Victor knelt and placed his hand on the grass in front of the gravestone yet looked skyward. “I know that things probably don’t look too good from up there. They don’t look too good from here either. But I think we’re wearing down the Lysandrans finally. If any of those cowards in the Free Worlds had helped us, we’d probably have beaten the Lysandrans outright by now.”
Three years ago, Victor’s younger brother had been part of a diplomatic mission, traveling around the Free Worlds to seek allies in the war against the Lysandrans.
Back then the Republic still controlled the Arcadia system, and the war had settled into a kind of stalemate. It was hoped, with the help of just one of the Free Worlds, the tide of the war could be turned in the Republic’s favor.
But all the Free Worlds had refused. They were either too busy fighting each other, too afraid of incurring the wrath of the Lysandran Empire, or just plain didn’t care.
On planet Mohawk the Republic’s hunt for allies ended when the Mohawk king decided to refuse the Republic in the most emphatic way possible. He had every last member of the diplomatic mission, including Daniel, publicly beheaded.
Victor had been there when the refrigerated container containing the heads of their diplomats arrived from Mohawk, along with a terse refusal letter.
A retaliatory strike was planned, but then the Lysandrans launched an offensive on the Arcadia system, and the Republic found they had more immediate concerns than vengeance.
Victor balled his fist into a death grip around the grass growing above Daniel’s grave. After this war was over, the Republic’s first order of business would be to deal with Mohawk and their king.
But victory against the Lysandrans was an unlikely prospect. In all probability, Daniel would go unavenged.
Victor remained crouched in front of the grave for another minute, getting his emotions back under control.
Once his temper cooled, he stood.
“I’ll be by again after I return from the
’s next patrol.” He looked in the direction of the mansion that had been his family’s home since the Fall of the First Civilization. A gleaming white cubist structure that didn't look over a thousand years old. “Keep an eye on Alex and Gina while I’m away.”
When Victor returned to the house, someone was waiting there who he had not expected to see. His father.