Authors: Bennett R. Coles
Virtues of War
March of War
Ghosts of War
Print edition ISBN: 9781783294244
Electronic edition ISBN: 9781783294251
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First Titan Books edition: August 2016
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This is a work of fiction. Names, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead (except for satirical purposes), is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Bennett R. Coles. All Rights Reserved.
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A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
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TO EMMA, MY BELOVED
Lieutenant Katja Emmes (Terran strike officer)
Commander Charity Brisebois (Terran intelligence officer, known as “Breeze”)
Lieutenant Commander Thomas Kane (Terran line officer)
Sublieutenant Jack Mallory (Terran pilot officer)
Kete Obadele (Centauri agent)
Captain Andy Lincoln (commanding officer)
Lieutenant Helena Grey (science officer)
Sublieutenant Amanda Smith (junior research officer)
Admiral Eric Chandler (Director of the Dark Bomb project)
Brigadier Alexander Korolev (commander of the Levantine Regiment)
Admiral Randall Bush (commander of the Research Squadron)
Storm Banner Leader Günther Emmes
Merje Emmes (a lawyer)
Michael Emmes (a teacher)
Stormtrooper Soren Emmes
|AAR|| ||anti-armor robot|
|AAW|| ||anti-attack warfare|
|AF|| ||Astral Force|
|AG|| ||artificial gravity|
|APR|| ||anti-personnel robot|
|CO|| ||commanding officer (or captain)|
|FAC|| ||fast-attack craft|
|XO|| ||executive officer|
|Line officer|| ||in charge of the general operations of the Astral Force warships, this trade is exclusive to the Fleet|
|Strike officer|| ||commanding AF ground operations, this trade is exclusive to the Corps|
|Pilot officer|| ||operators of the Astral Force small craft, this trade exists in both Fleet and Corps depending on the craft being piloted|
|Support officer|| ||divided into three distinct sub-trades—Supply, Engineering, and Intelligence—this trade fulfills the Astral Force non-combat roles for both Fleet and Corps|
|Brane|| ||a region of spacetime which consists of three spatial dimensions and one time dimension; humans exist in one of several known branes|
|Bulk|| ||an area of spacetime which consists of four spatial dimensions and one time dimension|
|Ctholian Deep|| ||a region of the Bulk more than 16 peets away from the brane in which humans exist|
|Peet|| ||the unit of measurement to describe how far away into the fourth dimension something is, from the brane in which humans exist|
|Weakbrane|| ||another three-dimensional region of spacetime displaced from humans within the Bulk|
|Aft|| ||toward the back of the ship|
|Bow|| ||front of the ship|
|Bridge|| ||the command center of the ship|
|Forward|| ||toward the front of the ship|
|Frame|| ||an air-tight bulkhead which divides one section of the ship from another|
|Hatch|| ||a permanent access point built into a deck (as opposed to a door which is built into a bulkhead)|
|Hardpoint|| ||a small mounting on the outer hull which holds a weapon until the weapon is launched|
|Ladder|| ||a steep stairway leading from one deck to another|
|Main cave|| ||main cafeteria|
|Rack|| ||bed; also a verb meaning to sleep|
|Stern|| ||back of the ship|
|Washplace|| ||sink, shower|
After months of being androgynous, it was nice to be a woman again.
Katja Emmes hardly recognized herself in the reflection of the tram’s broad window—but she did recognize the admiring glances from male passengers, noticing eyes on her from several angles.
There was the young man to her left by the door. Quick, but awkward, his own legs would trip him up under fire. Then there was the man seated at eleven o’clock. Overweight but powerful, more aware of his surroundings than his slouched posture suggested. Two men wearing suits stood to her right. Poor at hiding their intentions and little strength, they would just stand in shock once the shooting began.
Target priority was the seated man, Double-tap.
Awkward youth, single with chaser.
Pair of suits, hold and question if possible.
Katja blinked, and loosened her grip on the pole. No one needed to be taken down. She was home, on Earth.
She looked again at her reflection. Her slender frame was heavily reinforced with well-used muscle, shoulders and arms highlighted by the sleeveless dress that clung to her figure. The girl in Katja bemoaned the fact that her hips were a bit wider than her chest, but the professional knew it was a result of being in shape. Months of rehab had softened her, but the regime of the last few weeks was starting to show results.
Her face was what she recognized the least. The mop of long, curly blonde hair was a world away from the cropped halo of this morning, and every time she moved her head she felt the tickling across her neck and shoulders. She didn’t usually indulge in a hair lengthener, but today was different.
It wasn’t every day she came home from her first war.
The tram slowed to a stop, the pleasant voice announcing arrival at the Santa Fe Law Courts. Katja grabbed her small hover-case and stepped down through the door into the unfiltered heat. She caught the faint fusion haze of the tram as she took her first deep breath of pure air. Her nostrils burned with the dryness and her eyes began to water. She blinked quickly to clear them, and took short, shallow breaths. She’d forgotten how dry North America was. A breeze gusted between the buildings as she strolled toward the broad, imposing front of the courts.
The building was more than two hundred years old, and a beautiful example of the Gaian style of architecture. The facade had been worked to appear as one solid slab of the local red stone, with windows recessed tastefully behind ledges of long grass and flowers. The walls and roof curved as if they had been formed by thousands of years of wind. The only break in the smooth face was a steady stream of water that flowed down a crevice to form a pool to the left of the main entrance.
Just outside was a large crowd of what could only be reporters. Katja had seen the news, announcing that a big military trial was scheduled to conclude today.
Her lips tightened as she started up the wide steps from the street. Some officer in the Corps had disobeyed orders and caused an embarrassing defeat in one of the minor theatres. This had stolen the spotlight from the great victory they had achieved in Centauria, where Katja had served, robbing the Astral Force of a very public triumph.
It was lucky for the accused that the name of any military defendant remained secret until a guilty verdict was pronounced. She could think of a few things she’d like to do to him, if she could hunt him down.
One of the reporters spotted her and detached himself from the crowd, cameraman in tow. She recognized him from one of the major networks, but couldn’t remember his name. He was tall and broad-shouldered, outweighing her by at least forty kilos. He had greater reach, but probably not speed.
“Excuse me, miss.” He gave her a disarming smile. He was quite good-looking, with a shock of brown hair and boyish features. “I’m Chuck Merriman, ANL. Can I take a moment of your time?”
She was tempted to brush past him with a brusque “no comment,” as was proper in her position, but today she was just plain Katja, and all the rules were changed.