Newsletter-ARMY OF DIVERGENCE (my readers stand separate and distinct)

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Empire



PAGE TURNER BOOK TOURS PRESENTS…


The Empire (The Empire series)

Blurb:

"It will be interesting to discover which will make you beg. Will it be the pain or the pleasure?"

How do you tame a man without breaking his spirit?

The galaxy is under siege from alien invaders. The Empire is the only force that stands in the gap, trading the freedom of its citizens for a tenuous security.

Amidst this chaos, Lt. Adrian Stannis is a brilliant scientist trying to stay out of the limelight. He hides on a research vessel plying the Outer Rim and finds peace of a sort with Kali Mirren, a psi-enabled humanoid. But his days of anonymity may be coming to an end. Someone has discovered his secret and is determined to make him pay for his treachery. He must finish the project he abandoned years ago, one the Council deems essential in its fight against the aliens, but things are never that simple where Adrian is concerned.

Is he more man than machine, or have years hiding behind a mountain of logic eroded his humanity? Can he learn to love and will he be able to survive the tangled web of political expediency and psychological manipulation that surrounds him?

Will Kali be able to save him from himself, or is there a mystery surrounding him that may explode in their faces?

Everyone wants to know the truth, but will it set them free?





About Elizabeth Lang:

I'm a science fiction writer who started off life as a computer programmer with a love for reading, especially science fiction, fantasy and mystery.

Being in computers, I found my writing skills deteriorating so I decided to take up writing. It became a joy to create characters, stories and worlds and writing soon became a passion I couldn't put down. As a writer, I like to explore, not only the complexity of characters but the human condition from differing points of view. That is at the heart of the Empire series, of which 'The Empire' and 'The Rebels' are the first two of a four books series.

You can connect with Elizabeth Lang at the following places:











The Empire - Chapter 15

Fleet Admiral Verel eyed his visitor warily, not because the man’s face inspired suspicion or was particularly threatening. The opposite in fact.

He wore simple but richly tailored clothing; a tapered navy blue jacket buttoned to the throat, and black pants. Elegant and professional.

Senior Psychostrategist Charles Sester was an easily likable man with the casual air of someone who didn’t take himself too seriously. His gray eyes sparkled with sharp intelligence and irreverent humor, and his brownish-blond hair, neatly groomed, leant friendly warmth to his manner.

Someone pleasant and friendly was the last thing Verel had expected in a puppet-master. Psychostrategists had a reputation that inspired fear and respect. They could supposedly overthrow civilizations with a well-placed word. Verel fervently hoped this man couldn’t guess he had been trying to help Stannis.

“You’re clear what you need to do?” asked Verel over steepled fingers.

“My commission is clear, Admiral.” Sester’s voice was rough silk on the ears. He wasn’t smooth, he was what smooth would have liked to be if it wanted to be sincere. “You understand that I am to be given every cooperation and authority with regards to Adrian Stannis?”

Verel nodded brusquely. “I understand.”

“Good.”

“Is there something you wish to say to me?” asked Sester, a perpetually amused half-smile playing on his lips and his eyes like penetrating lasers. Had the psychostrategist guessed? There were rumors they read minds but that was impossible. As far as their scientists knew, only Tellarans had proven to have that ability.

“Rest assured, Admiral, what I do has nothing to do with telepathy.” He smiled pleasantly. “Though all indications may appear otherwise.”

“You like playing games,” the Admiral scowled.

Sester inclined his head in acknowledgement. “That is what I do.”

There were many things Verel wanted to say to influence the psychostrategist, but he suspected this might tell the man more about him, than Stannis.

“You’re right, it would,” said Sester.

Verel started at the response to his hidden thoughts. His eyes narrowed. “If you want to convince me you can’t read minds, you’re not doing a very good job of it.”

The psychostrategist sat back relaxed, his sharp gray eyes alive with humor and inquisitiveness. “Is that what you think I’m trying to do?”

“I think you’re trying to give me a headache.”

That was all the Admiral needed. With the stubborn Stannis and the machinations of Kegan and Boudreaux, not to mention Security Section, adding the psychostrategist to the mix seemed like the work of a twisted and sadistic mind.

The psychostrategist watched him intently, noting the slightest reaction with detached interest, as if he were ticking an item off a checklist. “I imagine the Lieutenant has a similar effect on you, but for entirely different reasons.”

“How did you…never mind.”

“Don’t worry about Adrian Stannis, Admiral. He is no longer your concern.” For a fleeting moment, the pleasant, relaxed face hardened around the eyes. “Unless you wish him to be.” The friendly manner returned. “But why would you want that?”

It was a friendly warning, depending on how you looked at it.

“Can’t think of a reason,” said Verel, trying to sound casual. He had the prickly impression of a sharp spear poised at his back. “He’s all yours.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Admiral.” Sester gave a polite bow, but Verel had the distinct impression it was only a formality extended to his rank and he had just released a deadly viper on his ship

~~~

“What’s this?” Adrian asked, after Kali deposited a wrapped box on his desk.

“It’s a gift.”

“The shiny green wrapping made that obvious.” He stretched long fingers towards the box, hesitating for a moment before he picked it up. “I do not celebrate birthdays.”

Kali put her hand on his shoulder and kneaded his tight muscles. It was a ritual Adrian had become accustomed to, but only after much coaxing and logical argument on her part. As long as the contact was professional, he had no adverse reaction. He also accepted it as a necessary evil, to avoid subjecting himself to the dubious ministrations of the medical unit.
“I imagine you have a perfectly rational reason for not observing the date of your birth?” she asked him.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” He held the shiny wrapped box in both hands as if he didn’t know what to do with it. The carefully wrapped package crinkled in his hands, the attention to detail showing in every line and fold, and the ribbons tied off with an artistic loopy flourish at the top.

“You surprise me.” Her tone was light and teasing as she placed pressure below his shoulder blades.

He grunted. “Have I become that predictable?”

She gave his shoulder a squeeze. “You’re logical.”

“That means yes.” Adrian’s eyes closed and his dry tone was light as her fingers found a hard knot.

Kali smiled softly, teasingly. “I’m afraid it does.”

“Then perhaps I shall endeavor to engineer a few ‘surprises’.”

“I look forward to it.”

His head turned partially to face her in profile. “It’s not my birthday.”

“I know.”

“I’m not the kind of person people give gifts to.”

“Are you trying to discourage me from giving you this one?” Kali noticed Adrian was still holding the gift.

He looked down at the neatly wrapped box, caught between the thought of handing it back to her as unnecessary, but unable to. His hands gripped it tightly. “As you went to the effort, it would be impolite to refuse.”

Kali’s hands paused for a moment as he responded, but she continued her massage. Complex emotions boiled beneath the surface of Adrian’s mind.

He removed the green wrapping, following the precisely aligned edges, affixed with joining tabs. A burnished black metal case emerged, its polished surface smooth as his sensitive fingers brushed along its surface. On the lid was a holographic impression of a chess piece rotating, a knight with a stately arched neck, alternating black and white. A slim smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “A chess set.”

“Yes, it plays standard and three dimensional versions. You can challenge the computer or someone else.”

He brushed the indentations on the side of the case and depressed one. The unit expanded upwards, checked platforms sliding out, ebony and ivory chess pieces fully formed and ready to play.

“It records moves and saves the configuration?” His voice was impassive but his fingers touched the pieces eagerly, feeling the finely crafted figurines.

“Yes. Do you like it?”

“It is a suitable gift.” He pressed another button and the chess set folded on itself and the lid snapped closed. His hand rested on the slim-line case, almost protectively. “Would you like to play?”

~~~

Fleet Admiral Verel’s shocking words were piped to all corners of th e ship, his voice calm but with serious gravity. “It is my duty to inform you of a major battle which occurred in Sector Fifteen just over four hours ago. A fleet of Andromedan ships entered our system. The largest since the first invasion wave five centuries ago.”

The crew of the Trykor gathered around the nearest viz-screens, watching with horror as swarms of strange-looking, but all too familiar Andromedan ships came into view, their bulbous hulls and sharp claw-like blades inspiring fear. Larger ships had sweeping wings at the top and
bottom, like oddly configured vultures.

Breaths drew in and jaws dropped in shock. Fists clenched. They all looked ready to do battle. The screen panned out and at the far left edge, a gray, ungainly mass appeared.

“What is that?” Kerril pointed, asking no one in particular. She and Bryce were watching the footage in full 3-D form during an interrupted viewing of a comedy vid. They leaned forward in their seats, mouths dry with nervous excitement and trepidation.

“Dunno. Asteroid maybe?” said Bryce, trying hard to catch more details.

“Where’s the fleet?” a lispy-sounding man several rows away, asked.

“Probably trying to get there.” This was from a red-haired woman sitting next to Bryce.

The lispy man swallowed hard. “They’d better hurry it up. Do you see the size of that armada?”

“My god, that’s a ship!” The red-haired woman’s mouth was wide with shock as the large gray mass came closer and details became more distinct.

“But is it theirs or ours?” asked Bryce, shifting nervously in his seat. He reached to his side and took Kerril’s hand in his.

“It’s got to be ours,” Kerril said, as she silently mouthed a prayer.

The lispy man half-rose from his seat. “That’s the Bastion! It’s got to be!”

The Bastion was a monster of a ship, the size of a small planet. Within its numerous holds were several battle fleets. In itself, the Bastion did not have much in firepower, some defensive batteries and missile capabilities, but by its sheer size, it was virtually indestructible and served as a moving base for the smaller ships that provided its main offensive capability.

Everyone in the Empire had heard of it, even if they hadn’t seen it before.

Large doors slid open in the Bastion’s belly, revealing huge docking areas with smaller frames that punched out and snapped into place.

Streams of ships shot out like missiles, racing towards the invading force.

The Trykor crew watched with rapt attention and amazement as the attack ships maneuvered into position, splitting into four groups, trying to use tactics to defeat the larger Andromedan fleet.

“Oh, this isn’t good,” said Bryce. “They’re outnumbered three to one.”

He put his arm around Kerril’s tense shoulders. This wasn’t an entertainment vid with a guaranteed happy ending.

Two of the Empire battle groups succeeded in splitting the enemy’s forces, drawing them away, while the other two formed a cordon and hammered them with deadly fire.

“That’s smart,” said the red-haired woman in admiration. “We might actually stand a chance.”

“At least it won’t be as much of a slaughter,” said a pessimistic, older sounding man from the other side of the room.

In the midst of conflict, a fiery-looking circle formed, its edges flashing orange-red. A small ring of energy coalesced inside.

“Oh god. It’s a jump gate!” said the lispy man, his voice shrill. The smaller circle pulsed and discharged a large ship bristling with open gunports.

Everyone jumped in alarm as even more Andromedan ships arrived, a train of death from another galaxy.

The theatre was a hive of worried murmurs.

“Why aren’t we doing something?” someone shouted in anger. There had been no call to battle stations, no warning claxons.

“We can’t just sit here!”

“That’s Sector Fifteen. We’re too far away.”

Just when the situation seemed hopeless, as one Empire ship after another was destroyed before their eyes, smaller ships darted out from the main force and buzzed towards the jumpgate like little insects weaving between the larger ships.

“Those are Ifrits,” said Kerril, her eyes bright with hope. Ifrit pilots were the best in the fleet. Some called them insane; they routinely took on the most suicidal of missions. “I saw this on a vid once. Don’t remember which, but they’re trying for an EMP net to collapse the gate.”

“Will they have time?” Bryce asked, his eyes not quite as confident.

The little darts raced towards their goal, fearless and focused, ignoring the chaos raging around them. One after another winked out, destroyed by a rain of enemy tracers, but the rest did not falter. Relentlessly they advanced.

Suddenly, the circle collapsed, dissipating in a shower of energy. Mouths fell open in astonished silence before the theatre erupted in cheers and people jumped up and down in relief and joy. Then, an explosion of red filled the theatre with violent light. People gasped with shock as one of the Empire battle groups virtually disappeared, leaving a handful of battered ships drifting in disarray.

“Oh my god! What just happened?”

Eyes bulged and everyone was frozen. It was only then they saw a large craft, its center cavity had opened, revealing a lit hollow interior.

Purple energy flared within the opening and a beam sliced through the darkness, narrowly missing the Trykor’s sister ship, the C.S.S. Raven.

Another beam raced outwards and like a sharp knife cutting into a cake, carving the flagship in two.

The Empire fleets were in disorder as they turned and fired at the new danger.

“This is worse than any horror vid,” said Kerril, her legs rubbery as she sat down.

Like a Goliath without a David, the hollow craft brought destruction and death on its enemies.
A large hole appeared on the top of the Bastion, near the front. The massive ship shuddered and a large missile, sped towards the Andromedan fleet, leaving a glowing trail.

“What the hell is that?” More than one person said in surprise.

“It’d better be good or we’re toast,” said the cynical older man.

Abruptly, the Andromedan ships and a few hapless Empire ships were sucked together, colliding with each other and crushed at the center of a gravity well. A bright explosion sent ripples of green rings radiating outwards, smashing into tiny pieces any ship not already caught. It was a scene straight out of fantasy.

A strong gravelly voice boomed throughout the ship. It was High Admiral Bernard Negisaki. Everyone leaped to their feet at attention.

“My fellow citizens of the Empire, and her allies. What you have just witnessed is a momentous battle that occurred four hours ago. A cowardly attack by our enemy. Empire forces have prevailed and pushed back the treacherous Andromedan invaders, but many brave men and women paid a terrible price.” He leaned forward slightly, his eyes large and grave on the screen. “These are dark days, my friends. We face enemies on many fronts. Both alien (he paused and stared hard at the screen) and within our own borders. We must unite!” He banged his fist on the table. “We must stand together against our common foe. If humanity is divided, then we are lost. We implore you to join the Empire so that we may stand together as one. We must not let the Andromedans take this galaxy!”

~~~

Adrian and Kali watched the broadcast of the battle from the privac y of their cabin. As High Admiral Negisaki’s words ended, Adrian leaned back in his chair, his arms folded together and his chin sunk to his chest.

“What do you think?” asked Kali, her heart still pumping with excitement.

He said impassively, “They will use this to pressure me.”

“Why are they so set on your Neutron Wave Weapon when they have the Bastion and the gravity well weapons. They seem more than enough to handle any Andromedan threat. Why didn’t they use them before?”

Adrian gave a soft grunt. “Because the Bastion is an ill-conceived anachronism that became obsolete before it was completed. All of its main systems are out of date. At best, it’s a slow-moving base. A very slow moving one. It is a grossly inefficient use of resources and technology. It has no stealth capability and its outdated hyper-drive technology would announce its presence long before it arrived. The ship itself was little more than a political showpiece to feed someone’s enormous ego. A hammer to the head would have been less subtle.”

“But…” Kali’s brows furrowed. “The Andromedan fleet wasn’t able to detect it.”

“It means the hyper-drive engines were shut off. Without main drive power, it appears like a large asteroid to any long-range scanners.”

“But the other weapon, it took out most of the invasion fleet.”

This elicited an even more cynical response. “Yes, it was very effective. But it is so cost-prohibitive that only three were ever made, and it is indiscriminate. You noticed that many of our own ships were caught in the gravitational forces generated?”

“That was horrible.” The sacrifice that had been required to keep the rest of them safe, made her ill. “Adrian, how do you know so much about it? It doesn’t seem to be common knowledge.”

One corner of Adrian’s lips curled in distaste at some of the knowledge he had the misfortune to know. “How I know doesn’t matter. The most important point is there are only two such weapons left. This time, the Bastion was at the right place, at the right time. We were lucky. If I were the
enemy, I would send scouts ahead to track the movements of the Bastion before attacking again.”

The viz-news was broadcasting interviews from participants of the battle; disheveled men and women hastily straightening uniforms as broadcast personnel cornered them, intent on finding the next memorable sound bite.

“Then the alliance is important.”

One Order, One Security, One Empire: that was the Empire motto. Kali saw the ideals differently now. She sighed and her eyes refocused on the face in front of her. Adrian was watching her, his light hazel eyes alive with interest and his arms no longer crossed in front.
She said, “Sorry. I was thinking about something.”
“I could see that.”

“Do you think things will ever change in the Empire?”

“You are asking a cynic.”

“Would you mind if I still have some hope?”

The golden flecks had returned to Kali’s eyes, mesmerizing him. Normally, Adrian didn’t notice them. Only in their cabin, when her eyes were soft and he felt relaxed enough to have a conversation, did he see the brilliant shine. He reached out and touched her cheek just under the eye. “You have the hope I am not capable of.”

“I will have it for both of us.”



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