New Releases – Space Scout Series By Will Macmillan Jones

Here is a new series by my friend Will Macmillan Jones, Scout Pilot of the Free Union is available today.

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On release from 8 June, initially in paperback and ebook direct from Amazon comes an exciting space opera collection.

Starting with Scout Pilot of The Free Union, and quickly followed by Infinity is for Losers and Rogue Pilot, the novels follow the misadventures of Captain Frank Eric Russell. Sacked from a prestigious post, Frank ends up flying a preloved (clapped out) Speedbird scout ship around the galaxy. The missions are exotic, interesting, and considerably unsafe. Danger lurks behind every asteroid, and every new planet offers disaster or death as recreational possibilities.  Brilliant fun with some great chases, said an early reviewer.

Captain Frank Eric Russell is captain/pilot of a Valhalla Class Star Destroyer – until there is an embarrassing incident during a diplomatic mission to the border with the Imperium. Disciplined by being transferred to the Reconnaissance Unit of The Free Union’s Star Fleet, he finds himself assigned to an outdated Speedbird Scoutship. The missions are less prestigious, less rigorously overseen – and a lot less safe. Threats, terror and mortal danger lurk behind every planet and asteroid as Frank tries to survive the life of a Reconnaissance Unit Scout Pilot patrolling the barely defined border between The Free Union and the Imperium during the uneasy truce between the two Galactic Powers.

Frank and his ageing Speedbird are sent on a number of perilous missions around the galaxy, both for the mysterious Colonel Rosto and on normal Space Corps business. On the way he meets a new sentient species, a terrifying space spider, finds himself involved in a deal for new spaceships that goes horribly wrong and finally has to escape the clutches of The Imperium’s Chief Enforcer, the feared Colonel Starker, before becoming involved in a battle as the rivals for domination of the galaxy clash in space.

With everything against him, can Frank and his trusty Speedbird live to run away another day?

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Here’s the first review, from Jim Webster (a fellow sci fi and fantasy writer, noted for his series ‘The Land of The Three Seas)

Just to note that I received advanced copies in return for an unbiased review

The books follow the career (in this case, career as in ‘When the brakes failed, the wagon careered downhill’) of Captain Frank Eric Russell, who becomes a Scout pilot of the Free Union. The stories are told by the good Captain in the first person.

This means that we whilst we see events through the eyes of our hero, we also begin to realise that he is in some things an unreliable observer. It begins to dawn upon the reader that Russell is a far better pilot and far more generally competent than he admits.

The universe is divided between three main powers. The first two that we meet are the Free Union, which our hero serves, and the Imperium, who are the enemy in waiting. There is no war between the two but there is a constant bickering at the outposts and attempts to destabilise the other. Finally there are the Merchant Princes, who happily trade with anybody.

In the first book, ‘Scout Pilot of the Free Union’, each chapter seems to be a separate mission and a separate story. But eventually you start to realise that there is a common thread starting to pull them together, until by the time you get into the second book, ‘Infinity is for losers’, we see that our hero is caught up in something far more complicated and dangerous than he first thought. I have no intention of saying more and spoiling the plot for anybody.

This isn’t hard military SF; similarly we are spared being plunged into some dark angst ridden dystopia, these stories are Space Opera. Admittedly there are times when Russell sees his superiors as a bigger threat to his survival than the enemy, but I suspect many service personnel could empathise with this.

Will Macmillan Jones is a story teller and a fine one. As I read these books I found myself swept along by the story.

At some point it appears the modern reviewer has to award ‘stars’. It’s not longer good enough to describe something as a ‘cracking good read.’ But I am not a number, I am a free man. I will wave my hand airily and announce that these books are undoubtedly somewhere betwixt and between four and five stars.

The far more important question is will I read the rest of the series. Too damned right I will. I’m looking forward to them and when they arrive I’ll tear open the packet and start reading. They’re fun!

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Eternal Dawn by Jade Kerrion

Today I have a latest release for you by my friend Jade KerrionEternal Dawn, book two in the Aeternae Noctis series.  I have read this series and I highly recommend it.  Start with book one Eternal Night.

Eternal Dawn



Nothing false endures forever. Especially not love…

All parents in Aeternae Noctis have lost children to the culling, among them, the herbalist Rafael Varens. Once more, humanity’s remnants rise in rebellion against the ruthless rule of the three immortal icrathari and their vampire army. Yet again, they are crushed.

When the icrathari Siri seeks a salve for her chronic pain, she and Rafael strike a bargain. He will cure the poison in her blood if she expands the settlement and frees the children, including his son. Their tentative alliance ushers in unexpected friendship, until it is shattered by the cruelest betrayal.

From the darkness below the earth, an ancient and implacable enemy rises, twisting their pain and turning Rafael and Siri against each other—his first step in the destruction of Aeternae Noctis…

Enjoy the thrilling sequel to the award-winning fantasy, Eternal Night.





New Release – Battlecry by T. Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you from my friend T. Jackson KingBattlecry is book three in the StarFight series.



Jacob Renselaer arrives in the Kepler 22 system, carrying a wasp ambassador as a sign of humanity’s hope for an end to its first interstellar war. But that hope crumbles as Jacob, his girlfriend Daisy, ambassador Hunter One and Marine chief O’Connor watch unknown aliens drop thermos-nukes on the wasp colony world, killing wasp larvae and adults. These new aliens pursue Jacob’s ships and a fleeing wasp ship. To Jacob’s horror, the new aliens attack with mobile balls of antimatter! Facing sure death, Jacob retreats to the Kepler 63 wasp colony world where Hunter One demands that he and his fleet defend a colony with 23 million wasps. Where does his duty lie? Must he fight and risk lives and ships to protect their former enemies? Or will help arrive from his father the admiral, or from other wasps? When the shark-seal aliens arrive at Kepler 63, battles happen that threaten the lives of all three peoples—human, wasp and amphibian. Can Jacob and his friends win a fight where they are badly outnumbered? Or will a fight to defend wasp civilians end in the destruction of the Battlestar Lepanto and all of Jacob’s hopes for a future with Daisy? All that is certain is that the amphibian aliens are relentless, their mobile antimatter balls are something no ship can escape and communication is impossible with creatures who talk with skin color patterns!





New Release – Battlestar by T. Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you, Battlestar by  my friend T. Jackson King.  Tom has also given us the first chapter to read.




Wasp-like aliens kill all the senior officers of the starship fleet led by the Battlestar Lepanto. That puts Ensign Jacob Renselaer on the spot. Can he find out why the aliens killed his ship’s officers? Can he take command of the Battlestar? Does he want to be the leader of ten heavily armed starships that never expected to encounter aliens? Deep in the Kepler 22 star system, mutual misunderstanding between two peoples who cannot speak to each other leads to multiple space battles. Somehow Jacob becomes the leader he never wanted to be. His close friend Daisy the pilot helps him, as do other friends on the Battlestar. On the alien side, Hunter One is determined to kill the invaders who threaten his new colony world. His people the Swarm have never been defeated. Now, he faces Soft Skins who do not flee at the loss of their leaders. In a distant star system, people human and alien die, scheme, and fight for survival. None of them have ever faced combat before. But now, both sides learn what it is like to have someone seek your death and the death of your friends!


Being in the Star Navy was not something Jacob Renselaer had ever wished for … or wanted … or needed. But as the son of Earth’s only five-star admiral, that was his destiny from birth. The orders fell on him like an avalanche. Read naval warfare histories. Learn NATO tactical brevity codes. Study the India-Pakistan nuke war. Attend Binghampton High School in New York. Then attend the Stellar Academy at Colorado Springs. He’d graduated, barely. And then, as a fresh ensign, his father had called in a favor. He’d gone into space as the personal ensign to Rear Admiral Cornelius Johanson, presently in command of the Battlestar Lepanto, BBG-5 and its battle group of sister starships. Which were now in orbit above the fourth planet of Kepler 22.

It was a status that the admiral had ordered after the fleet exited from Alcubierre space-time transit, some forty-three hours ago. They’d detected an alien satellite out at the edge of the system’s magnetosphere, which lay 45 AU distant from the system’s yellow sun. The sat’s broadcast signals had been a mystery. The ship’s AI failed to decipher them. Same for the Science Deck’s algorithm twisters. What wasn’t a mystery was the presence of a dozen alien ships in orbit above the system’s fourth planet. The admiral had been super excited. This was humanity’s first encounter with spacegoing aliens. They had headed in at one-tenth lightspeed. Upon arrival near planet four, the Lepanto’s AI had reported a visual signal from the aliens. The visual showed a simple graphic of people exiting the Earth ships to meet aliens leaving their ships, for a spot on the planet’s equator. The other ship captains, their XOs, the Lepanto’s admiral, captain and XO, and some ensigns had gone downplanet to meet with the aliens.

Jacob didn’t care. Dealing with aliens was not a task for ensigns like him. Instead, he was doing the job he’d been assigned as the admiral’s ensign. Which was to make the man’s personal quarters look clean and well-kept. He thought briefly of putting a pad from a nearby beaver-tail cactus under the sheet just where the admiral’s butt would rest, but he passed. He’d seen the Lepanto’s brig during the Stellar Academy’s boarding orientation. It was a dump and smelled of urine, shit, sweat and sour milk.

His small quarters at the far end of the Command Deck hallway were luxurious by comparison. Looking around at the private bedroom, which opened onto a conference room that was the only exit to the hallway, he wrinkled his nose at the hand-blown glass miniatures that lined one wall shelf. They were of Earth critters. Not one was a horse, like the one he’d ridden with his mother.

At least the wall wasn’t filled with antique paper books, like his father’s study in Binghampton. That was the place where the man spent most of his time, leastwise since the death of his Mom. The thought filled his heart with sorrow and his mind with her image.

She had been a middle-aged woman with curly brown hair, a narrow chin, perky nose and amber eyes that glowed every time she saw him. Her love had been the only thing that had kept him from OD’ing on crystal meth at Binghampton High School. But she’d died three years before he graduated, leaving Jacob and his father alone in the brick and stone colonial that occupied two acres on Binghampton’s west side.

To escape his father’s hectoring and put downs of his anthropology studies, he’d enrolled at the Stellar Academy. Where he’d learned ship systems, basic stellar astronomy, space battle tactics and formations, the reasons for the Weapons Deck and the details of Earth’s seven star colonies. Most of it bored him, but he’d learned what he had to learn in order to graduate.

Unlike other cadets, he’d never made friends with his two roommates or anyone else at the academy. While there had been plenty of young women in his graduating class, he’d avoided them. Jacob’s high school prom disaster had cured any thoughts of romance. His month on the Lepanto since leaving Earth had brought him a few friends, mostly guys except for Lori on the Science Deck and Daisy, the admiral’s personal pilot. He’d briefly thought of asking Daisy to join him for Dance Night, a weekly event on the Habitation Deck. But he’d held back. He’d come to know her since she always transported the admiral from the Lepanto to another ship, or downplanet, as pilot of her Landing Craft Assault. He admired her piloting skills, a field in which he’d gotten miserable grades. Her looks were also fine. Trim, pleasantly curvy and with blue-black hair that was full of tight curls, he’d been tempted to go beyond routine banter. The fact she was a mixed race woman, the offspring of an Anglo dad and a Black mother from Chicago, meant nothing to him. Or to their friends. Only the Marine boarding team had acted as if her racial mix was an issue. Which was silly beyond belief, considering that forty percent of the ship’s crew were female, they came from twenty nations and represented all the ethnicities of Earth, even though the ship was an official member of the American Star Navy.

Jacob left the bedroom behind, entered the conference room and turned left for the Food Alcove and the fridge that occupied one corner. It held twenty types of craft beer, six bottles of white wine, cheese, sausages, lunch meats, fresh greens and the drink he was looking for. Ice tea. He could drink that while on duty. He opened the fridge door, pulled out the ice tea dispenser, and poured the golden brown liquid into a tall crystal goblet. There was no plastic in the admiral’s chambers, a fact he’d discovered upon first arriving to perform upkeep in the chambers. He lifted the goblet and sipped slowly.

“Jacob? You in there?” called a female voice over the hallway announcer.

Daisy. Why was she back on ship, rather than downplanet waiting for the admiral and the top brass to finish their alien talk-talks? He put down the goblet, turned to face the gray metal door that opened onto the central hallway of Command Deck, checked his Navy dress blue uniform with a quick glance, then spoke.

“I’m here. Door, admit Ensign Daisy Stewart.”

A hiss sounded as the titanium metal door plate slid sideways into the room’s wall. The hallway’s yellow light shone softly on Daisy, who was dressed in NWU Type I blue and gray camos. She wore them even though she was an ensign with the rank of O-1, just like Jacob. She must have put them on for the downplanet landing. Putting aside his musings, he spoke.

“What’s up? And why are you up here, rather than downplanet with the admiral?”

She stepped inside, her arms swinging easily in the one gee artificial gravity produced by the ship’s gravity plates. Her brown eyes glanced around the room, then fixed on him. Her manner was one of impatience.

“He sent me back up an hour ago, right after we landed,” she said, her soft mezzo-soprano voice reminding him of the first time he’d met her, while they were still in low Earth orbit. She frowned. “Have you heard anything from him? My tablet is silent. And I can’t get any signal from him. Which worries me. Every tablet—”

“Sends a constant carrier pulse to every other tablet on ship or downplanet,” he finished. Then regretted interrupting her as he saw her expression move to irritation. Then back to worry. “No, I haven’t gotten any text or audio signal from him since he left.” Jacob pulled his palm-sized tablet from his jacket pocket, thumbed it on, then stared as a blinking red dot filled the app icon that automatically linked him to the admiral’s personal tablet. He looked up. “Mine can’t link up with him either. Could the meeting site be beyond our line of sight?”

Patience showed on her dark brown face. “Jacob, every ship in the battle group launched spysats and comsats the moment we moved into geosync orbit. The tablet signals are automatically routed through the comsats whenever the subject is beyond line of sight. Like on the far side of a planet.” She frowned. “And the equatorial meeting location is indeed on this planet’s far side.” Daisy pulled out her tablet, glanced at it, then looked up to him. “Ensign, something isn’t right here. Call Captain Miglotti and XO Anderson on your tablet. See if their signals link through.”

Jacob did that, ignoring the cool lavender scent of Daisy as she stepped closer, stopping just a meter from him. His quick thumbing produced two more red dots on comlink icons. “Nothing. Same failure to link.” He looked up. “Only time I recall that happening was during a solar flare, when our academy cohort was on the sun-facing side of the Moon. We got under cover quickly at the nearby Moon buggy hangar. We didn’t regain comlinks until fifteen minutes later.”

Daisy, nearly as tall as Jacob, pursed her dark brown lips. “I’ve been trying to reach the admiral for the last thirty minutes. While I was getting the LCA refueled and set for relaunch from the ship’s Hangar Four. While I would never interrupt the admiral in a big confab like this, I always recheck my tablet link with him whenever we are apart. Now, I can’t. I’m worried. What do we do?”

He felt shock. Then understood why she had come to him. The other Command Deck ensigns had gone down with Captain Miglotti and Admiral Johanson. While there were a lieutenant commander, a lieutenant and a lieutenant JG running other decks, he was the only Command Deck officer still on the Lepanto. Which theoretically put him in command of the Bridge, a place he’d visited just three times, even though it lay at the front end of Command Deck. Those visits had been in company with the admiral. Daisy, while an ensign like him, was not part of the Command Deck chain of command. He was. Crap.

“Let me call Osashi at Communications on the Bridge,” he said hurriedly. “Surely he’s heard from the admiral or the captain or the XO.” He tapped the ear-shaped app icon for the ship’s comlink station. “Osashi? Jacob here. Daisy and I can’t reach the admiral on our tablets. She’s concerned. So am I. Are you in contact with our ground party?” He thumbed on the speaker function and looked at Daisy.

“No,” grumbled the elderly Japanese-American chief warrant officer. “We’ve been out of touch for the last forty minutes. Cruiser Hampton Roads says her spysat sensors report an electrical storm above the meeting site. Or something with lots of electrical turbulence. We’re waiting for it to clear.”

Jacob’s heart began thumping fast. “We’re coming up. Daisy and I.”

“If you insist,” the man grumbled. The green dot of his icon went white on Jacob’s tablet.

He stored the tablet, stepped past Daisy and headed for the room’s exit. “Door, open,” he said, briefly glad that the voice-activated functions of the Lepanto still worked normally. Touching a sensor plate to open a hatch, a door or a chamber had gone obsolete in 2071, when voice recognition circuits had become the standard on all American Star Navy ships. That had been twenty years ago. Back then, no one had expected some geek at the CERN lab to discover the means to generate an Alcubierre space-time bubble. But that had happened. In 2073 Earth had gone from a fusion pulse-powered exploration of the Solar system to being able to reach other stars. Now, eighteen years later, humanity had seven star colonies and was exploring distant systems known to have planets. Like Kepler 22. He stepped into the hallway and turned right.

“Jacob,” Daisy murmured from close behind him. “Have you seen the holograms of the aliens at the meeting?”

“Nope.” “I did. Also in person. They’re weird critters.”

He had twenty more meters to go before they reached the Bridge entry hatch. “How so?”

“Well, from what I saw from the pilot bubble of my LCA, they look like giant wasps. Mostly yellow with black and red stripes on their bodies,” she said quickly. “They walk on four limbs, two at the rear and two in the middle, with the front limbs acting like arms. Their head and thorax segments are upright, kind of the way a horse’s front end is upright.”

His mind filled with images of yellow jackets and mud wasps. He’d seen both types building nests under the eaves of the old wooden barn that lay at the back of his parents’ property. Two horses had been stabled there, until his Mom died. His father had quickly sold the horses, removing one more memory of his mother. It had led him to spend hours alone in the barn during high school. It was a quiet place in which to use his school tablet for homework and for writing papers. And to research anthropology. He’d long wondered why other people acted the way they did. The discovery of cultural anthropology in his early teens had revealed some answers to the questions that had bugged him ever since second grade. That was when the bullies had discovered him to be an easy target. The bullying had only stopped in ninth grade, when he’d used his newly learned judo and karate lessons to drop three bullies. The broken arms they’d suffered had gotten him suspended for a week and caused his parents to pay their hospital bills. He hadn’t cared. After that, everyone left him alone. The way he’d been alone ever since understanding how different his family was, compared to corporate exec families or the political types in gated exurbs. Unlike the urban ghetto folks, he’d always had plenty to eat. And his own bed, versus the street. The invention of fusion reactors in 2043 had reduced worldwide poverty, thanks to mostly free power. But castes still existed. And class levels were official now. Often ruled over by the super rich, which his family was not. But military it was. A fact that always set him apart from fellow students.

“Interesting,” he finally responded to Daisy. “Kind of explains why we are meeting them on planet four rather than three.”

He stopped before the eight foot high hatch that gave access to the Bridge. She stopped close behind him.

“How so? I just assumed since this world is Earth-warm with oceans and oxy-nitro air, that the aliens chose—”

“Gravity,” he interrupted, recalling a high school biology lesson. “Large insects in Earth’s ancient past happened only when there was lots of humidity and the oxygen level in the air was way higher than now. Some fossil insects reached two feet in length. To get bigger, the gravity has to be lower. Like the half gee on planet four. Planet three is close to two gees. That’s because of their chitin-based limbs and exoskeletons,” he said. “Hatch, open.”

“Opening for Command Deck Ensign Jacob Renselaer,” the hatch’s response circuit replied. He put aside the reminder that only crew and officers registered as Command Deck personnel could enter their deck. It was standard on all Star Navy ships as a guard against invading boarding teams. Daisy had been added due to her piloting work for the admiral.

The hatch swung out toward him, then came to a stop in a whirring of gears. Bright yellow light shone from within the large circular room that lay at the front of the Lepanto, deep below its armored hull. He stepped through the open hatch and headed for the front half-circle of function posts. Automatically he inventoried those present. Women and men sat before the Power, Tactical, Weapons, Engines, Navigation, Communications, Gravity, Life Support and Science posts. Osashi was in the middle of the arc, facing the curving front wallscreen. Which was filled with the blue, green and purple colors of the planet below. One of the world’s four continents lay below their geosynchronous orbit. The green of jungles, the blue of lakes and the purple of three mountain ranges showed. Ignoring the curious looks he got from half the folks on duty, he headed for Osashi. To get there he had to pass by the central elevated pedestal that contained three heavily padded seats with armrests that sparkled with embedded control patches and studs. The two lower seats were where the captain and XO always sat. Behind them was the admiral’s seat, elevated slightly so anyone sitting there could look past the two in front. He stopped just behind the Communications chief. Who was staring at a holo that floated in front of his control pillar. The holo showed the far side of the planet as seen by the electro-optical scope on board the Hampton Roads’ spysat. A purple-black thunderstorm filled the middle of the holo.

“Osashi, what does the phased array millimeter radar say about the landscape under that storm,” he asked as he peered at the thunderstorm that covered the mountain meadow that was the alien-chosen meeting place.

“Oh!” the man said as he jumped, clearly startled by Jacob’s arrival. The fifty-year-old chief warrant officer swiveled his function seat around to look at him and Daisy. The man wore an NWU woodland camo uniform of shirt, pants and cap with visor. Ribbons filled the area above his left pocket, while his right pocket name tag read A. Osashi. Thin black eyebrows lifted.

“As I said . . . we’re waiting for the storm below to clear,” the man said, his tone exaggerated in its patience. “No need to radar ping them below. Might upset the aliens.”

Jacob’s peripheral vision told him all the people on the Bridge were now looking his way to see what the admiral’s clean-up boy did when faced with defiance by a warrant officer. Who held the pay rank of CWO5, the last level before ensign. Daisy looked surprised by the man’s attitude.

“Do as I just suggested. That’s an order,” Jacob said firmly, recalling his father’s way of giving him orders morning, noon and night. “Or ask Tactical to work the spysat if you don’t know how to change sensor settings.”

The man’s pale white lips opened in surprise, then muscles tightened in his face. “How dare you question—”

“This grants me the authority,” he said, reaching up to tap the single brown bar of an ensign that filled the point of his collar. “I am the only Command Deck officer now present on the Bridge. Perform your duty.”

Osashi was just five years short of full retirement. Perhaps the memory of that prompted the change in his manner. Which went from ‘irritated by a child’ to ‘obeying as ordered’. He swiveled his padded seat around to face his control pillar. The man reached out both hands and tapped in a sequence on the left side of the pillar.

“Spysat retasked to scan landscape below,” the CWO said succinctly, his tone now completely neutral.

Jacob looked at the holo in front of Osashi. The imagery changed from stormy mountain landscape to black and white pixels in the thousands. They beam painted the two nearby mountain peaks, a small lake lying two kilometers to the east of the meadow meeting spot, and the flat meadow area itself. Eleven oblong shapes showed in the millimeter wavelength radar return. Nine of them formed a half circle a few dozen meters out from the glass meeting dome he’d seen in a brief image of the meeting site just after they’d arrived in orbit. He had been with the admiral at the time. The dome location showed as a circular ring, which must be where its metal rim met the meadow soil. Glass was invisible to radar. The other two oblongs lay on the opposite side of the dome outline. Osashi looked back to him, expression very formal.

“There you are, Ensign Jacob Renselaer. All shuttles accounted for, including the alien craft.”

Jacob nodded slowly. There were ten ships in the battle group led by Lepanto. The eleventh oblong had to be the weirdly shaped alien shuttle that had departed from the largest alien ship in the cluster that geosync orbited above the meeting site.

“Looks like they are still meeting,” he murmured. “Any ideas on how to punch through that storm so we—”

“That’s wrong,” Daisy interrupted from the left of Jacob as she leaned forward a bit, a frown on her face. “My LCA is up here. There should only be ten shuttles down there. Our nine plus the single alien shuttle. When did number eleven arrive, Osashi?”

A chill ran down Jacob’s neck. He should have realized what Daisy pointed out, before she spoke. But he hadn’t, even though he’d been on the Bridge during their arrival in orbit, on the side of the world opposite from the twelve alien ships. He’d seen the spysat imaged meeting site, noted the clear glass meeting dome, seen an electro-optical image of the alien shuttle descending to the site, then had ignored the pending meeting as Johanson dismissed him from the Bridge. The last he’d known of the meeting events had been hearing Johanson order each fleet ship to send down a shuttle. Which was later joined by Daisy in her Landing Craft Assault. She and the LCA had been sent back to the Lepanto shortly after dropping off Johanson, Miglotti and Anderson. Which indeed meant there should only be ten shuttles showing in the radar return, not eleven. He looked away from the holo and met the black eyes of Osashi, who had looked their way with surprise.

“She’s right. When did number eleven shuttle arrive?”

A brief grimace of irritation showed in the man’s face, then he shrugged and turned back to face the black and white radar image. “Uh, about forty minutes ago. Just before the storm started up. It came from a smaller alien ship. Perhaps the aliens wanted language techs to help with setting up a common chat-chat lingo?”

Jacob took a deep breath and did his best to ignore the intense looks of the folks at the other function posts. He could not ignore Daisy, who stood just a few centimeters to his left. Her question had merit. The man who had decades of experience in communications had responded to her question. Still, Jacob felt uneasy. Why had the thunder and lightning storm begun just after the arrival of the eleventh shuttle? Was Osashi’s speculation the answer? Or was something else going on down there? He looked left to the middle-aged Anglo woman who sat at Tactical.

“Chief Petty Officer O’Hara, do we have a Cloud Skimmer available to take a look at that site?”

The woman looked surprised, then thoughtful. She pushed back her red ponytail as she leaned forward to scan her control pillar’s touchscreen surface. A milk white finger touched a spot on the pillar top. She looked his way, green eyes fixing on him.

“No, we do not. No battle group ship has launched one. We have six in inventory. Shall I launch one?”

“Do it,” Jacob said, telling himself the winged drone could make it to the meeting site in less than twenty minutes, thanks to the speed it already had due to their ship’s orbital velocity of 7.4 kilometers per second. As it dropped lower it would gain speed.

Osashi slowly shook his head, as if disbelieving Jacob’s sudden flurry of orders on the Bridge. He ignored the man and looked past Daisy to where the Tactical woman sat. She tapped her control pillar top, looked at the status holo floating in front of her pillar, then acted surprised.

“Armory Six refuses to launch the bird,” she said, frowning. “It cites the ship status as Alert Orbital. Which prevents any release from the armories or the weapons banks.” She looked his way. “The admiral ordered all ships of the group to assume Alert Orbital status once we entered orbit. I recall him saying something about not wanting to make the aliens nervous if their sensors picked up an accidental Weapons power-up.”

A new chill ran down Jacob’s back. The varied ship status conditions were intended to reduce human error or the action of a single crazed crewman. To change a ship status condition required the cooperation of the ship’s AI.

“AI Melody, respond to me.”

“Responding to Ensign Jacob Renselaer,” the AI spoke from its ceiling speaker as his voice matched the AI’s record of him in its voice recognition memory block.

“Change ship status condition to Alert Unknown Enemy,” he said, working to keep his voice calmer than he felt. “Provide ship status change code,” the feminine voice of the AI said.

Despair filled Jacob. The ship status change code was known only to the admiral, the captain and the XO. Which was also the case on the other ships in the fleet, except just the captain and XO were in the change code loop on the other ships. Of course, the code was also present in the digitally locked safe in every captain’s sleep room. But forcing open a safe to look at the piece of paper, or the thumb drive with the stored code, would take time. And . . . a sudden memory hit him. An image filled his mind. Two weeks ago, during Alcubierre transit, he’d been cleaning up the conference room while the admiral sat at his fold-down desk in the bedroom. The man had just opened his comp pad. But a call came over the room’s loudspeaker from the XO. Anderson had asked the admiral to join him and Captain Miglotti on the Weapons Deck for some issue related to the Smart Rocks railguns. The man had stood up, pulled on his dress blue jacket and left the room in a hurry. Jacob, in keeping with his clean-up duties, had gone into the bedroom to close up the comp pad computer and return the work desk to standby mode. On the comp pad’s screen he’d seen the twelve alphanumeric symbols that were the ship status change code. It had puzzled him until he recalled the admiral saying he wanted the ship crew to prepare for Alert System Entry status. The man had failed to shut down the comp pad before he’d left. Bringing the memory to the front of his mind, Jacob realized he was the only person on the Lepanto with knowledge of the vital code. He looked to Daisy.

“Uh, I happen to know the code. The admiral shared it with me. Do you think this silence really is—”

“Do it,” Daisy said, her tone firm. Sudden sympathy showed on her dark brown face. “If something has happened to them, the Lepanto could be in danger. And so could the other ships in the fleet. We have to know our senior officers are all right.”

Jacob knew that. He’d spoken only to delay the inevitable. He licked his lips. “I agree. We have to know, not guess or assume.” Turning away from Osashi, he fixed on the three padded seats where the admiral, XO and the captain always sat whenever they were aboard the ship. Of course they rotated shifts so it was rare to see all three in the seats. But now, they were gone, the other Command Deck ensigns were gone, and none of the higher-ranked officers on the other decks knew what he knew. While he could order the AI to admit any ship person to the Command Deck, it would obey only Command Deck officers and personnel. Like Osashi and O’Hara and the other function post folks. None of whom were O-rank officers. With a sigh he kept mostly silent, Jacob walked toward the central group of seats. He stepped up to the low pedestal that held the XO and captain seats, then stepped up to the rear half that held the admiral’s seat. He turned and sat in the wraparound seat. Looking ahead, he saw Daisy still standing beside Osashi. The two of them had joined the rest of the Bridge warrant and petty officers in staring with surprise at him.

“Bridge, I am assuming temporary command of the Battlestar Lepanto as Acting Captain, until relieved by the XO, the captain or the admiral.” He looked down at the touchscreen inset into the right armrest. A keypad lay just under it. He tapped in the ship status change code, then tapped Activate.

“Melody, have you received my ship status change code?”

“I have,” the AI said, its melodious tone the reason for the name given it by Captain Miglotti, a man who loved his Italian operas.

“Change ship status to Alert Unknown Enemy. Confirm status change.”

“Status change confirmed,” the AI said quickly.

Above him yellow alert lights began blinking on the ceiling and on the walls that surrounded the Bridge. A low hooting sound filled the room. The sound and the yellow lights were now being repeated on every deck of the kilometer-long starship that was the Lepanto.

“Allow the launch of a Cloud Skimmer from Armory Six.”

“Allowed. New ship status now permits full range of defensive movements, drone releases and Weapons Deck activation,” the AI said redundantly, telling Jacob something he’d learned in class at the academy, but had never expected to occur by his own action.

He looked to O’Hara. “Tactical, launch the Cloud Skimmer. Send it into ground contour following mode right after atmosphere entry.”

“Aye aye,” the woman said quickly as she tapped on her control panel. A torpedo shape suddenly appeared in the true space image in the holo before her.

Jacob looked up front. “Daisy, come and sit in the XO’s seat. I will need your support in whatever happens in the future.” A thought struck him. His other friends might be of help in this situation. They knew tech stuff he didn’t. “Melody, advise Ensign Carlos Mendoza, Ensign Lori Antonova and Spacer Quincy Blackbourne to report to the Bridge for consultation with me. Add them to the approved Command Deck personnel list.”

“Directives sent. Personnel added,” the AI said briefly.

Daisy stopped before the XO’s chair and looked up at him. “Jacob, are we doing the right thing?”

What a question to ask in front of the other Bridge crew persons! Then again, she likely spoke what many of them were thinking. “I am acting on behalf of Rear Admiral Cornelius Johanson, who is out of comlink with this ship, as are the captain and the XO. A potential emergency exists. It is our duty to determine whether this comlink severing is due to natural weather events, or due to enemy action.”

New sympathy filled her face. “Agreed.” She turned and sat in the XO’s seat, tapping the left armrest to bring up the holo of all ship decks and status reports for all ship systems. That was one of the duties of an XO. It was something she, like Jacob, had learned at the academy. Which reminded him there was another duty that went with Alert Unknown Enemy ship status.

“Melody, send an encrypted neutrino signal to the other nine ships in our fleet that advises them to change their ship status to Alert Unknown Enemy.” The other ships would wonder at the order from the fleet’s flagship, but someone on their Bridge would go to their captain’s quarters, force open the safe, read the code unique to their ship, and order their ship’s AI to change ship status.

“Ship status change signal sent to each ship,” the AI said quickly, her tone moving from routine to intense. Clearly there had been an algorithm change in the smart AI’s interaction module. “Confirmation of signal received from ships Chesapeake, Hampton Roads, Tsushima Strait, Salamis, Philippines Sea, St. Mihiel, Marianas, Britain and Ofira.”

Jacob swallowed hard. He had moved beyond taking command of his ship’s Bridge. He had sent new orders to the two cruisers, three destroyers and four frigates that made up the battle group. Briefly his mind rewound a lesson from the academy that described why some ships were named after famous naval battles and others were named after famous aerial fights. Shaking his head, he remembered a final academy lesson.

“All Bridge crew, put on your vacuum suits. Prepare for environment disruption. Melody, send my vacsuit order to all ship personnel and all decks.”

“Complying,” the AI said sharply.

A hiss from below his left armrest told Jacob a compartment had opened. It held his own vacsuit with flexible helmet. Its clear fabric would darken at any exposure to stellar radiation. He pulled it out, stood up and joined everyone on the Bridge in donning the precaution against sudden air pressure loss.

As he did so, he wondered what the leader of the wasp-like aliens was thinking. Surely the alien ships had detected the radar scan of the meeting site. Those ships had put out their own spysats before the fleet arrived. Those sats would soon report the Lepanto’s launch of a Cloud Skimmer. What would the alien captain or leader or whatever passed for someone in charge now do?





Excerpt Promotion – The Loranth by Jean Kilczer

I am going to bring a series of excerpts for you beginning today with The Loranth, the first in The Star Sojourner series by my friend Jean Kilczer.

JEAN Loranth


While searching for the missing link among the mammal life of planet Tartarus, Jules finds more than what he was searching for among the great reptiles of this primal world. Deep beneath the surface, a spectacular culture of intelligent life forms quietly roams the sunken seas. After walking into the lair of a demented member of the species, Jules finds out that the creature plans to destroy humankind and intends to use him as a weapon.

Jules is thrown in a battle against an enemy with staggering telepathic powers and the ability to destroy entire worlds; even Earth. Will he prevail, or succumb when pitted against these impossible odds?

The Loranth is the first book in Jean Kilczer’s Star Sojourner series, a science fiction adventure. If you enjoy unique, well-written scifi with believable characters, you will love the Star Sojourner series.

Begin reading this fascinating science fiction adventure today!



I don’t know what I expected as I approached the Loranth’s pool. I no longer cared. Water was life. That’s all.

But I paused when he lifted his bulbous head. It was large, white, rubber smooth. Where eyes should have been if he were a natural creature of light, there were only pinhole patterns circling his head, like pits lining bodies of electric eels. My stomach churned. I saw the snakelike curve of a long upper lip. On either side of his head, low, fanlike gills protruded from folds of lumpy skin. He stayed low in the water, to keep his gills wet, I think. Mercifully the rest of him was submerged.

He was not mammalian and I was glad.

Christine was on her knees near the water’s edge, lighting wicks that floated in bowls filled with oil.

I went to the pool, fell on my stomach and brushed aside foam. Silver creatures wiggled away as I drank. I hardly noticed the chemical taste or the bitter coating in my throat.

By the time I sat back and stared at the Loranth, I was His creature. Perhaps it was a neurochemical secreted from his body into the water, a chemical that attacked the nervous system or the brain itself and broke down will.

I pressed my hands over my eyes as thoughts, concerns, the sense of self sloughed off and left me empty and open to his mindlink. There came a warm sense of wholeness. I don’t know how else to describe it. But in that delicate balance of imagined fulfillment and freedom from pain and fear there came joy. And I knew His mindlink was love.





New Release – Fight the Aliens by T. Jackson King

Today I have a New Release for you, Fight The Aliens which is book two of the Escape  series, by my friend T. Jackson King.    Tom has also given us the First Chapter to give us a taste of this great series.

FightTheAliensMasterKindle (2)



Slave-taking Aliens invade the Solar system and attack Earth to teach humanity it cannot overthrow the millennia-old system of Buyers, Market worlds and Collector ships. Former SEAL Bill MacCarthy and Air Force captain Jane Yamaguchi lead America and the world in a fight against six invading Collector ships. But even with the help of two American subs and two small transports, their ship Blue Sky is badly outgunned. Can they win this fight? Or will they and all humans end up as slaves sold at the nearby Market world?



It’s hard to watch your wife argue with her boss. Especially if the boss is the Marine general who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jane had one advantage, though. She’s the captain of the starship Blue Sky, which was orbiting 200 miles above Peterson Air Force Base on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. The starship was something the JCS chairman wanted badly.

“Captain Yamaguchi,” growled the four star general who filled the holo to the right of Bill’s Ship Weapons control pillar, “you are still on active duty in the United States Air Force! You will obey my order to land that spaceship at the airport field next to this building!”

He winced at the man’s tone. While General Paul J. McAuley had seven lines of ribbons on the left side of his Dress Blue uniform and had led ground attacks on the Islamic State capital of Raqqa, still, the man was treating his lifemate as if she were fresh out of flight school.

Although the friendly Aliens who crewed stations at control pillars to Bill’s right knew little of Earth’s military, they understood the man’s tone of voice. The black skin of the walking snake who was Time Marker grew a yellow electrical nimbus as the critter in charge of their engines showed his reaction to the man’s tone. If a former SEAL could have projected an electrical charge, he would have done so. Instead, he checked the reactions of the rest of the crew.

To Bill’s immediate right stood the naked form of Bright Sparkle, the human-like woman whose Megun race spoke by changing the color bands that covered her skin. Color-cast speech was how the Megun had survived on a jungle world filled with dino-like critters who ate anything that made a sound. The woman looked his way, her expression puzzled.

Bill made a calming gesture her way, and hoped the rest of the Command Bridge crew would sense his intent. Beyond Sparkle and Time Marker were Long Walker the eight-legged worm, Wind Swift the scaled kangaroo, Lofty Flyer the flying squirrel, while further back were Builder of Joy, their other squirrel person and Learned Escape, the second Megun on board. Those five showed expressions of puzzlement, curiosity or worry. Hopefully they would see his calm manner and understand things were being handled.

Looking back to his station, he made a quick check of the system graphic holo on his left. It showed their ship was the only moving neutrino source within the Solar system. While Earth’s hundreds of low orbit and geosync satellites also showed in the holo, they meant nothing. None of them carried laser or antimatter weapons. Nor were there any weapons on the ISS space station, or the Russian and Chinese space stations. So said ship sensors. Which he believed completely thanks to their superb functioning during the space battles at Kepler 443. Ahead of him the Weapons holo held an outline of Blue Sky with its laser, plasma, MITV space torps and antimatter weapons showing operational status. The true space holo next to it was filled with the blue and white surface of Earth below, while the silvery twinkle of the ISS station lay 49 miles above and ahead of them. The comlink holo on his right showed the JCS chairman. He looked past it to directly view his wife.

Jane Yamaguchi sat in a metal seat that overlooked the bridge from its position atop a six foot high gray metal pedestal. Vertical holos surrounded her command station, with control pillars in front of every holo. Each holo depicted a vital function of the starship. In front of Jane was her own comlink holo that showed General McAuley, who sat at a table in the Space Operations Center of the Air Force Space Command HQ at Peterson, his manner impatient. The faces of the other Joint Chiefs were impassive, except for the black face of General Harriet Poindexter, the Air Force Chief. Poindexter had a thoughtful frown on her face. Which fit the woman who was in direct control of the 21st Space Wing, the 1st Space Brigade and the Space Command at Peterson. His wife’s pale-skinned face showed tight-clenched muscles as she faced down the nation’s top military adviser to the president.

“General McAuley, you and your fellow chiefs possess the vidcam records of how I and Executive Officer Bill MacCarthy fought the Aliens of this Collector ship, took command of it, returned other Alien captives to their home worlds, and fought several space battles against other Collector ships,” she said tightly. “We sent those records, and vidimages of my crew on this bridge, to you upon our arrival just beyond the orbit of Pluto. That was 53 hours ago. I requested a meeting with you at Peterson since that is the headquarters of the Space Command.” She gave a nod to each JCS chief at the table. “Gentlemen and madame, the stars are a wonderful but dangerous place. The slave-taking Aliens of the Buyer society run things in our part of Orion Arm. I deem it my duty, under my oath, to retain control of the Blue Sky in case our Solar system is again visited by a Collector starship!”

“Bullshit!” McAuley exploded, his face going florid. “Those records just prove the utter necessity for this Blue Sky to be run by a squadron commander with real combat experience! And we need to know the tech secrets of its construction before you disappear into deep space on some godforsaken ‘mission’ that you choose to pursue! Fulfill your oath. Obey my orders now!” Jane sat back in her seat and rested her arms on the arms of the flexmetal seat. Her ‘command persona’ was not just in charge now. It was all she was. She blinked dark brown eyes. “General McAuley, may I remind you that under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, you are not in direct command of any active duty person. When I worked at Peterson in the 21st Operations Group, on satellite monitoring duty, I reported to the colonel who was in charge of Peterson. He reported up the chain to the Chief of the Air Force. General Poindexter. All of which you know.” Jane held up a hand to forestall McAuley’s reaction. “As you also know, we run this ship in collaboration with its self-aware AI. Who goes by the name Star Traveler.” She looked away from the holo and up to the soft white glow of the bridge ceiling. “Star Traveler, collate the complete mech and tech specifications for this ship’s fusion reactors, its artificial gravity units, the inertial damper, our CO² lasers, our plasma weapons, the Magfield normal space drive and the Alcubierre FTL space drive.”

“Understood. Collated,” the AI’s mech-toned voice said. “What do I do with this data?”

Jane licked her lips. “Transmit everything I just listed to Building One below, on the official encrypted microwave frequency I gave you earlier.” In the holo that showed the JCS chiefs, with nearby staff watching and listening from their function posts, the impassive expressions of most JCS chiefs changed to quick smiles. Poindexter’s dark face gave a nod and a lifting of one eyebrow. As if she expected more. “In addition to the transmission to Peterson, transmit only the Alcubierre stardrive specs to the internet, our global data-sharing network. All of humanity deserves to know the secret to star travel.”

McAuley’s face, which had shown a grim smile at Jane’s first command, now went florid again. “Captain Yamaguchi! That data is beyond Top Secret Unit Protected! How dare—”

“General?” interrupted Poindexter from her position next to the JCS chair. “I sense that Captain Yamaguchi has distinct reasons for every action she takes and has taken. May I join this discussion?”

McAuley pulled his hand out from under the touch of the Air Force chief. “Yes.”

Poindexter folded her slim fingers together atop the tactical display table around which the chiefs sat and faced his wife, a woman who wore many hats. “Captain Yamaguchi, let me be the first to say Thank You for your amazing efforts at capturing this Alien starship, and in now sharing the remarkable secrets of its construction and function. For myself, the video history of your efforts after being captured is worthy of being added to the Air Force Museum’s displays at Wright-Patterson. And I support your decision to first return other captives to their home worlds before returning to Earth. Under Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, every commander of a military unit must do their best to remove non-combatant civilians from the field of battle.” Bill liked what he was hearing. He liked better that McAuley, ever the Marine, was clearly impatient with the Air Force chief’s conversational manner. “Your decision to attack the home system of this evil slave-taking culture was also a reasonable decision, in view of the threat posed to Earth and humanity by other Collector ships.”

That comment drew intense looks from the JCS Vice Chair admiral, the Army general, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. And behind the chiefs table there were gasps from some onlookers.

Jane sighed softly. “General Poindexter, thank you. These last nine months have been hard for me, for XO MacCarthy and for my crewmates as we weighed this interstellar threat to all intelligent peoples. Deciding what to do next has been . . . very challenging.” His wife looked his way, her face moving to a quick smile. “But my service oath and my promise to XO MacCarthy after the last space battle caused me to head home to Earth. That is, after we obtained vitally needed ship repairs at the star system of the Megun people. They are near duplicates of humanity except for their chromatophoric skin. Which is how they talk among themselves.” Jane gestured forward. “Chief Bright Sparkle, who runs our fusion power plants, belongs to that race. She helped me obtain the repairs we needed after fighting and defeating four Collector ships at Kepler 443.” Jane pointed at the other crew. “To her right are our Engines master Time Marker, our Collector Pods manager Long Walker, Wind Swift of Life Support and our Navigator Lofty Flyer. To my right and left are Builder of Joy and Learned Escape. To you, they resemble a color-banded human, a walking snake, a giant worm, a scaly kangaroo and a flying squirrel. But they are my crew and my allies.”

Poindexter glanced quickly at her table’s flat screen display, which showed the Command Bridge of the Blue Sky and its crew, then faced back to Jane. “Captain Yamaguchi, you have made allies of Alien peoples we never knew about. You have accepted them as part of your ship crew. And you have traveled 2,500 light years out from Earth. A voyage that I envy.” Several chiefs nodded slowly, as if they also wished to travel the stars. “You returned here, to Earth, in compliance with your service oath. Which of course was your duty as an active duty member of the United States military forces. What else does your oath say you should do now?”

Ahhh. Bill had been wondering why the Air Force chief was being so butter smooth with his captain, lover and wife. Now it was clear. The chief was inviting Jane to share her motivations with the Joint Chiefs rather than try to dictate behavior to a woman who commanded a starship hovering 200 miles above their heads. He gave a thumbs-up to Bright Sparkle, a gesture she’d come to know during his dates with the Megun woman. The other crew on the bridge also understood the gesture, since it was part of the sign language he’d trained them all in during the weeks of small unit combat training he’d given them prior to the Kepler battle. The yellow electric nimbus surrounding Time Marker grew smaller. The two black eyes of Long Walker blinked acknowledgment. The silvery scales of Wind Swift shimmered as she signed back. And the arm flaps of Lofty Flyer flared as she showed excitement that the human to human confrontation was resolving. Or so Bill hoped.

Jane gave the black woman a salute. “General Poindexter, you are also the US NORTHCOM unified combat commander. As such you are the head of my chain of command. I hereby report to you my observations and recommendations from active duty service in defense of the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic!”

Poindexter’s face went command formal. “Captain Yamaguchi, report!”

Jane tapped the nearby pillar for the ship’s Library. “At present, the enemy slave-takers consist of 61 Market worlds where intelligent people are bought and sold to 841,333 Buyers from 413 star systems. Captives are found and captured by 89 Collector starships, which is my estimate of the number remaining after their combat losses. I am sending you a graphic of every star we visited, the locations of the 413 star systems with Buyers, and the several Alien peoples who became our allies. Including the Megun, whose space industry abilities greatly exceed ours.”

Even McAuley looked shocked by the graphic that appeared on the flat screen display that lay in the middle of the table at which the JCS chiefs sat. Poindexter grimaced. “America and Earth face a terrible enemy. Proceed with your report.”

“The nearest enemy Market world is located at system HD 128311, which is 54.1 light years distant from Earth,” Jane said, gesturing at the graphic she had transmitted to the chiefs. “That is a two day trip thanks to the Alcubierre FTL stardrive. Which means the enemy is just two days away!”

Every member of the JCS stiffened and looked alarmed. “We have to prepare for an attack!” grunted the Army general who, like Jane, was of Japanese-American heritage.

Poindexter’s middle-aged face went neutral smooth. “That is too close for comfort. Captain Yamaguchi, what can America do to defend against these Collector ships?”

“Adjust the sensors on your SBIRS geosync sats to detect moving neutrino sources,” Jane said bluntly. “That is the only way to detect a Collector ship. The hull of the Blue Sky is made of material that wraps external EMF radiation around it, so it cannot be seen in normal light, and our infrared, electrical, radio and other emissions cannot be detected by any passive or active system, like the AN/SPY-1 phased array radar on Aegis cruisers. Or the SSPAR, PAVE PAWS and PARCS radars of Space Command.” Frowns showed on the faces of the chiefs. “However, the fusion plants that power our Magfield and Alcubierre spacedrives emit neutrinos at a density greater than what comes from deep space. The emissions are not as dense as those coming from the Sun, of course, but any moving neutrino source is an enemy Collector ship! And thereby a target.”

The Air Force general nodded slowly, then looked aside to McAuley. “General, I suggest we inform the Russians and Chinese about the need to adjust their DPS-type sats to detect neutrino emissions. They already know Aliens exist and that the Blue Sky has encountered them, thanks to the internet broadcast of the stardrive specs.”

McAuley, a barrel-chested man whose crewcut hair was mostly silvery gray, nodded abruptly. “Agreed. I will so recommend that action to President Melody Hartman.”

Poindexter looked back. “Captain Yamaguchi, you’ve reported on the nature of the enemy and the means of detecting them. How do we fight and defeat them?”

Jane looked his way. “My Executive Officer can best answer that. As Weapons Chief, Bill MacCarthy has applied each of this ship’s weapons systems against the enemy.”

Poindexter shifted her gaze to Bill. “You are the retired SEAL, yes?”

“I am, sir.”

The Air Force chief smiled at his brief reply. “Advise me. Us. Tell us what we can do to fight these slave-taking Aliens.”

Bill turned away from Jane and faced the holo that showed the JCS chiefs. “General Poindexter, the Buyer society spacecraft come in three modes. They are the Collector starship, a transport ship and collector pods,” he said. “Most dangerous is the Collector ship. Its weapons are CO² lasers at the nose and rear of the giant teardrop that is the craft’s shape,” Bill said, tapping his Ship Weapons pillar top to transmit a cross-section of the Blue Sky. “As you can see from this graphic of our ship, we have two laser mounts on the nose, two on our rear hull, a plasma battery on our spine and a second on our belly, an antimatter projector on the deck above the Command Bridge, and below us is an electromagnetic railgun launcher of torpedoes that carry multiple independently targeted vehicles. There are five MITVs per torp, each fitted with a thermonuke warhead.” Bill sat back in his seat. “The combat range of our weapons varies. The lasers are effective out to 10,000 miles. The coherent antimatter beam is deadly out to 4,000 miles. The plasma ball batteries are effective out to 400 miles. The torps have a range of 20,000 miles or so, depending on when their solid fuel is exhausted.” He tapped the Weapons pillar to highlight other craft. “Besides the Collector ships, there are also manned transports and automated collector pods. The transports are the size of our old space shuttles. The transports are armed with a nose laser and a belly ejector of missiles. Finally, the collector pods are Beechcraft-sized teardrop pods that enter a world’s atmosphere, search for isolated beings, zap them with a red taser beam, then collect them using automated grapples. Each pod has a cargo space large enough for three people. The pods are unarmed, except for the laser-like taser beam.”

The Air Force general frowned. “Are the transports and collector pods also invisible to radar and infrared sensors?”

Bill shook his head. “Nope. But both craft move very fast in atmosphere and neither shows an exhaust. Both craft use Magfield drives to travel in air and in space. Within atmosphere they ‘glow’ whitely due to the interaction of their Magfield drives with a world’s geomagnetic field. Either craft can be taken out using Sidewinders, Tomahawks, AMRAAMs, Harpoons, ASROCs, SUBROCs, ship lasers and ship-mounted electromag railguns.”

“That’s encouraging to know,” muttered the brown-haired Chief of Naval Operations, a man Bill knew from the admiral’s time spent in command of the Nimitz-class supercarrier USS George H. W. Bush. Vice Admiral Chester J. Richardson leaned forward. “Weapons Chief, will our Ticonderoga-class cruisers and Zumwalt-class destroyers be effective against these pods and transports?”

“Sir, they will be effective,” Bill said, almost giving his former top boss a fast salute. “Any Navy ship outfitted with Standard vertical launch missiles, or the systems I mentioned earlier, can take down a pod or transport.”

Poindexter gestured to him. “What combination of these Buyer spacecraft will we face, in your opinion?”

Bill tapped again on his Weapons pillar to highlight parts of the Blue Sky cross-section.

“You are not likely to encounter the transports. There are only three per Collector ship. Collector pods number 24 per ship and will be the Alien craft most often seen within atmosphere. The Collector ships themselves will likely orbit at LEO and use their directed energy weapons to take out our satellites and the space stations. Which should be evacuated immediately! Once you start fighting the Collector ships, anything in orbit above Earth will be a target. As will any combat platform on land, sea or in the air.” He sat back in his metal seat. “However, fighting any Collector ship will be . . . challenging. Their lasers can take out any missile or warhead tossed at them. Their thermonukes can create an EMP pulse above any national capital, thereby causing a region-wide blackout. And any ship or plane that fires on them can expect immediate counter-attack. While their lasers will lose some strike power in atmosphere, still, nothing we possess can withstand multiple laser strikes by a Collector ship.”

The Air Force general gestured back to a hovering aide. She spoke in a whisper not picked up by her desk microphone. The black woman leaned forward, looked first at him, then shifted attention to Jane. “Thank you, Executive Officer MacCarthy and Captain Yamaguchi. A warning is being sent to the three space stations. Captain, how soon are we likely to face an attack from a Collector ship?”

Everyone on the Command Bridge, including the two Alien pilots who sat to either side of Jane’s pedestal seat, looked to her. They had all wondered when an attack might happen after they’d materialized just outside the orbit of Pluto and seen there were no Collector ships in Sol system. Past history said Earth would be visited again. A Collector ship had arrived just before the departure of the Blue Sky when it was still under the control of its cockroach captain. Whom Bill had greatly enjoyed zapping with a red taser beam. The two-legged bastard had later told the Traffic Control authorities at the first Market world they’d visited that the Blue Sky was still his, rather than Jane’s by right of conquest. He and Jane had allowed the ship’s Alien crew to live, along with the cockroach captain, due to the Emergency programming of Star Traveler. That programming had allowed the AI to help them in taking over the ship because they wore vacsuits. Since then the AI had subverted other Collector ship AIs with the news that their Containment cells contained people who were not ‘guests’, but were really captives being held for sale to Buyers. The battle of Kepler 443 had been fought by Bill, Jane and their volunteer Alien crew in order to protect the liberty and freedom of individuals and species.

Jane grimaced. “An attack could come in months. Weeks. Maybe even in days,” she said. “Sol system is known to the Buyers and the Traffic Control station of HD 128311, which has a Market world where people are bought and sold. Plus it is the place we dumped the giant cockroach who used to control this ship, and his crew. While our AI subverted the ship minds of four Collector ships present at that system, other Collector ships surely have arrived in the months since we left. I have no doubt former captain Diligent Taskmaster has sold the fact of Sol’s location and the ease of capturing humans to other ship captains.”

McAuley thumped the chiefs table with a hairy fist. “We need to prepare! I’ve got to brief the President. And we need to get DARPA working on that weapons and ship data you sent us! We need laser battlestations in orbit. We need—”

“Alert!” called Star Traveler’s mech voice. “Six neutrino sources have appeared just beyond the orbit of your world Pluto. Sensor analysis indicates the sources are Collector ships.”

Bill’s system graphic holo now showed what the AI was reporting. Six purple dots had appeared in a tight cluster at a distance of 42 AU from Earth. And on Earth’s side of the Solar system. “Captain, we can call them and warn—”

“What does this mean?” interrupted Poindexter, her expression worried.

Jane moved her hands through multiple status holos that surrounded her command pedestal. “The worst news possible. An arrival by a single Collector ship is normal for any low tech system like Earth. But six Collector ships mean something else. General Poindexter, please watch and listen while I contact these Aliens using our neutrino comlink. It gives us FTL communications.”

McAuley looked irritated. The other chiefs showed shock. Poindexter nodded quickly. “Understood. The enemy has arrived. Find out anything you can about what we face.”

Jane gave a nod of acknowledgment and sat back in her seat. “Star Traveler, open our neutrino comlink. Set it for the intership frequency used by Collector ships.”

“Comlink opened,” the AI hummed. “Frequency selected. You may speak at any moment.”

Ignoring Bill’s wave, Jane spoke. “Collector ships! You have arrived at Sol system, the home of the human species. I am Captain Jane Yamaguchi of the Collector ship Blue Sky. We claim this world for our own collector pods! Leave this system!”

The true space holos in front of Bill and Jane filled with a shocking image.

A brown cockroach looked out at them, his black compound eyes fixing on Jane. Two antennae leaned forward. “You lie creatively, Human Jane,” rasped Diligent Taskmaster, his mouth palps moving sideways. “Your control of my ship has caused many losses to Buyers and to our Market world system. The AI ship minds are in revolt. And our Collector ship factory is destroyed. All because of you.” Behind the giant cockroach Bill saw three of the creature’s crew, Aliens whom they had knocked out with taser beams and then allowed to go free in the distant star system. Transparent eyelids slid over Diligent’s eyes. The walking cockroach raised his upper arm pair, stick fingers curving like claws. “New ships and new captains arrived at the Market world. They agree with me that you Humans must be taught a lesson. Which is, do not interfere with an interstellar market that has existed longer than you Humans have had cities! We arrive now, six ships strong, to destroy your space launch sites and then collect a few hundred Captives for sale!”

Jane gave the creature the finger. “Evil bastard! We humans can fight! We’ve been fighting among ourselves for millennia. You are welcome to taste the anger of our people!”

Rasping laughter came from the cockroach captain. “More lies. We know the history of your species. Your groups are forever divided. You cooperate on little, other than who can be most greedy. Your space launch sites will be destroyed, along with your satellites and space stations. Anyone who attacks us will die. Your ship will be destroyed or captured, though I doubt its value in view of the stupid behavior of its AI in allowing you and your male cohort to control my ship!”

Bill began a rapid inventory of the torps and thermonuke warheads in the torp launcher below the Command Bridge. Maybe he could create a minefield that might—

“And you Collectors are too greedy to cooperate as a fighting unit!” Jane growled. “If you attack Earth, be prepared for sudden death. We have weapons not listed on our world datanet. And we have two Collector ship allies! We will chase you and your allies from one end of this system to the other. And this time, no Alien will be left alive!”

The giant cockroach lifted his mid-arm pair and touched a control pillar. “You lie again. We detect only a single moving neutrino source above your planet. Your ship. Which cannot stand against six ships!”

Jane laughed. It shocked Bill and the chiefs. “Our two Collector ship allies are close to our Sun, near the planet Mercury. Which is why you cannot detect their neutrino emissions! Our three ships and the orbital defenses of Earth will defeat you!”

The giant cockroach tapped on two control pillars. “You lie. No Collector ship captain would help you destroy the system that makes us rich in solidars and Nokten crystals. Tell your fellow Humans we are coming to capture them for service to their superiors!”

The holo image vanished.





TOM CowboyTom (3)

Excerpt – The Reckoning by Sam Kates

It is my pleasure to bring you an excerpt from my friend Sam Kates new novel The Reckoning, book 3 of the Earth Haven series.

SAM Reckoning small res


Unnatural calm prevails. Trepidation builds. Silently, a storm gathers.

Survivors from mainland Europe and North America converge on Britain. Weary, confused, all come seeking answers; some are spoiling for a fight.

What began with the Cleansing and was hastened by the Beacon nears fruition. But time is running out, and human numbers are too few to win the last battle alone. Unless help can be found from the unlikeliest of allies, failure is assured.

Humankind faces its ultimate test. The Reckoning is upon us.


Blacker than jet, smoother than glass, vaster than a mountain range, it moved through space like an obsidian meteor. A large sun growled and flared like a blacksmith’s furnace at the blast of the bellows. The ship had already passed the fourth and final planet of the solar system, was accelerating into the furthest reaches of the system’s gravitational field, when the smaller craft appeared.

Eight vessels, little more than a scouting party, but still capable of inflicting severe damage with their antimatter-seeking missiles. Travelling at close to light speed when they came into view, the craft were already slowing as they entered the embrace of gravity.

The black ship was built for speed, not battle.

Trying to evade the smaller craft by vertical or horizontal thrusts would merely expend huge reserves of energy in an exercise in futility that would also slow its rate of acceleration. The smaller vessels were capable of changing direction within moments through deployment of on-board gyroscopes and would be able to train their missiles on the larger ship regardless of what manoeuvres it attempted.

No. Its best chance – likely its only chance – of escaping ruin lay in speed.