Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Severed Press
Publication Date: June 21, 2017
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Black Ops—the intelligence arm of the Meridian Alliance Fleet came calling with an offer Henricksen couldn’t refuse: a ship—an entire squadron of ships, actually—and crew to command. A chance to get back to the stars.
Too bad he didn’t ask more questions before accepting the assignment. Too bad no one told him just how dangerous this particular skunkworks project was.
They call the ship the RV-N: Reconnaissance Vessel – Non-combat, Raven for short. A stealth ship—fast, and maneuverable, and brutal as hell. On the surface, Henricksen’s assignment seems simple: train his crew, run the RV-Ns through their paces, get the ships certified for mission operations and job done. But an accident in training reveals a fatal design flaw in the Raven, and when an undercover operative steals classified information from a Black Ops facility, the Fleet Brass cancels the tests completely, rushing the faulty ships and their half-trained crew into live operations. On a mission to recover the Fleet’s lost secrets.
Out of time and out of options, Henricksen has no choice but to launch his squadron. But a ghost from his past makes him question everything—the ships, their AI, the entirety of this mission, right down to the secrets he and his crew are supposed to recover.
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Audiobook available 10-17-17
Hecate’s probes slid through the sea of wrecked ships, searching for signs of life. Any life—human, AI, anything that survived the massacre that occurred here, deep in unsettled space.
Assuming anything did survive.
A sobering thought, and one that consumed Henricksen. Drew his eyes to the floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping the front of Hecate’s bridge. To the stars and devastation, hoping, praying to spot something out there, and finding naught but despair.
Death and wreckage everywhere he looked.
“Farrow,” he called, half turning. Flicking his fingers at the fair-haired woman working the station to his right. “What’s the word?”
“Checking.” Farrow bent her wrists, exposing the comms ports sunk into her flesh, trailing cables connecting her to the panel in front of her. “Wasteland,” she reported, voice dreamy, blue eyes hidden behind the Comms visor covering her eyes and forehead, wrapping across her ears. “Some kind of interference…” She winced, adjusting a tiny dial near her temple. “No one sending, though. No one picking up, as far as I can tell.”
Well, that’s certainly ominous.
Henricksen frowned, eyes flickering to the windows. “Scan. What’s out there?”
“Nothing, sir.” Duclos twisted in his seat, shaven head painted in the multi-colored lights flashing across Scan’s panel, long nose looking even longer in the low lighting around him. “Few blips now and then, but I can’t get a solid reading.”
“Radiation,” Hecate cut in, serene, AI tones drifting from the overhead speakers, camera swiveling to point Henricksen’s way. “It’s confusing the probes’ sensors. Messing up the scans.” A twitch of the camera, taking in Farrow. “Possibly Comms.”
Henricksen grunted, thinking. “Any chance it’s natural?”
“Doubtful. No planets nearby, and the closest star is still light years away. Sensors aren’t picking up any solar particle events.”
Ship then. Or weapons. Manmade in either event.
Henricksen didn’t like it. Not one bit.
“And the blips?”
“Could be anything. A byproduct of the radiation itself.”
“Wonderful,” he grunted. “Just fucking wonderful.”
Didn’t come across radiation often these days. Ships still used radiological weapons—Fleet ships included, at least the larger ones, like the Dreadnoughts—but nuclear drives were old beyond old, bordering on ancient. Phased out a couple of centuries ago in favor of the fuel cells and plasma drives more modern ships carried.
Radiologicals complicated things. Turned this simple little recon mission they’d been sent on into something altogether different. Radiation—enough radiation for the probes’ sensors to pick up on—likely meant contamination, a complication Henricksen most definitely did not want to deal with.
He stared through the bridge’s windows, considering the messed they’d found outside. Lifted his eyes to Hecate’s camera sitting just above them, one of dozens scattered across the length and breadth of her warship’s body—her eyes on the crew, on everything going on around the ship. “Whaddaya wanna do?” he asked her, because this wasn’t his decision. He was captain—her captain—and in charge of the crew, but not Hecate’s master. Nor she his, either.
Hecate considered the question before answering.
Not entirely her call, this time. Technically Seychelles—the grey-skinned, smooth-sided Valkyrie cruiser behind them—was in charge of this mission, granted authority over the entire operation by Brutus himself. Hecate and three of her disc-shaped Aurora brethren detailed to go with her, backed up by a handful of Titans—sharp-sided and sinister, bodies shaped like four-pointed spearheads.
Ten ships in total, sent walkabout on a reconnaissance mission. Ten Fleet cruisers deployed to find out what the hell had happened to those vessels out there. And why no one knew anything had happened until it was entirely too late.
“No sense leaving the probes out there,” Hecate decided, camera adjusting, zooming in on Henricksen’s face. “Not sure there’s all that much they can do.”
“’Spose not,” he murmured, dropping his eyes to the windows, considering the drifting wreckage outside. “Fuck it. Recall ’em, Duclos.”
Duclos glanced around, blinking in surprise. “But the probes, our orders—”
“Know my orders, Duclos.” Henricksen favored the crewman with a flat-eyed stare. Lean face all planes and angles, turned harsh and angry in the bridge’s sparse light. Like all the crew, he dressed in Hecate’s midnight blue uniform, torch and keys patch a silver twinkle on his shoulder, nothing but the insignia pinned to his collar to set him apart from any of the others.
Other Books in the Series
J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe…
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