Voyager US |

Harper Voyager veteran authors reflect how their military experiences influenced their books

In honor of Veteran’s Day, we’d like to put the spotlight on our Harper Voyager authors who served in the military: Erik Williams, Ian Douglas, Nick Cole, and Henry V. O’Neil. They each described how their experiences serving have influenced the books they write. We thank them for their courage, as well as for their stories!

ERIK WILLIAMS, author of Demon (out in trade paperback today!):

How has my experience in the military influenced my writing? Hell, I don’t know how it hasn’t. You see, you got to go all the back to the beginning: my birth.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a long story.

In 1978, I was born to two parents both serving in the Navy. My mom didn’t stay in but my dad did, doing close to thirty years.  My youth was spent crawling around on aircraft carriers and under fighter jets and bombers. I went to the University of Southern California on an NROTC scholarship. I met my future wife in that unit. Upon graduation, I was commissioned as an officer and did four years on active duty, including a deployment to the Persian Gulf for the first four months of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  My dad was still on active duty at the same time too, both of us were in the Gulf on separate ships. In 2005, I got out of the Navy (as did my wife) but we turned around and got jobs a defense contractors supporting – you guessed it – the Navy.

So as you can see, the Navy has been, in some form or another, part of my life since the beginning.  Writers like to say, “write what you know.” Well, I know the Navy. So it’s only fitting my first novel Demon would feature a lot of military, including the USS Rushmore (the first ship I actually served on).

Of course, I wasn’t in the CIA.  I’ve never encountered a demon (nor wish to). But I like writing about them. And thanks to my military experience, I’m able to ground m supernatural thriller like Demon in a very real world. I guess you can say it gives the story verisimilitude. Yeah, that’s a good writerly thing to say.


IAN DOUGLAS, most recently the author of Dark Matter: Book Five of the Star Carrier series.

Corpsman front!

I was a corpsman, a “Doc” serving with the U.S. Navy, long ago and far away. We ran sick bays and labs and ORs for the Navy; we were medics for the Marines. And, yes, I draw upon those experiences in every book I write.

In his epic military coming-of-age novel Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein wrote movingly about a young recruit reaching “the hump” in his boot camp training … and then pushing beyond. That feeling is quite real and quite powerful. Suddenly, the recruit, his civilian attitudes and worldviews battered down by discipline, training, and a lot of in-his-face screaming, knows that he fits in, that he’s a part of a fraternity, that he belongs.

And he will never, ever be the same.

When I write military SF today, I’m constantly referencing that experience – whether I specifically mention it or not. U.S. military personnel live under a demanding and unaccustomed discipline – they sign away their civilian rights before they raise their hands and swear an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Usually, they find themselves entering a new relationship with their fellows; it’s well known that the guy in the foxhole fights and dies for his buddies in there with him before he fights for home, mom, and apple pie. That relationship is something most people who have not served in the military can never quite grasp.

Yes, there are exceptions: the cowards and bad apples, the moochers, slackers, and deserters. Humans are, well … human, and no two tick the same way. But in general, that Band of Brothers mentality forged in combat is as sharp and crisp and real as the blood on the sand at Omaha Beach … or the stink of death in Fallujah.

I became a Navy hospital corpsman partly because I hoped to apply my medical training to med school when I got out, partly because my dad before me was a corpsman. Turns out I never became a doctor. I did develop quite an insane love of, and respect for, the U.S. Marine Corps that has stayed with me throughout my life. The scientific, medical, and military training all stood me in very good stead afterward, particularly when I wrote a series for Harper Voyager (Star Corpsmen) about Navy corpsmen in the future. But what really stuck with me were details of life under military discipline and the chain of command, about shipboard life, about the vital need for a well-trained military to defend that afore-mentioned Constitution … and, always, about the goddamned U.S. Marines.

I’m proud to have served.

I’m proud of those with whom I served.

And I’m very proud to be able to bring just a taste of that experience, that fellowship of duty-honor-country, that history, that passion to my tales of the military in the future.


NICK COLE, author of Soda Pop Soldier and The Wasteland Saga

I joined the Army as a kid who had some immature ideas about life and writing. The Army changed me, as I’m sure it changes everybody. The Infantry unit I was in had a new 1st Sergeant. He’s the head enlisted man in the company. Even officers who outrank him are wise to listen to his sound advice and hard-earned wisdom.

He had the deadpan eyes of the late actor John Astin. He cut through lies, weaknesses, and youthful ignorance like a deli slicer. The patch on his shoulder told you he was the real deal.  Vietnam, back in the day.

One morning he was going down the line, inspecting us.  If you came up short it was back to the barracks.  Some guy was bellyaching about an important job he had to do.  The 1st Sgt dropped his tombstone gaze right down on top of that slacker.  I was behind the guy.  I heard it all, and it changed me forever.  He didn’t light the guy up and smoke him like a cheap cigarette.  No, he didn’t go straight to Heart Attack military-speak.  He didn’t do any of that. Instead he just said:  “You’re not ready for work.”

John Astin burrowing right into your pathetic soul.

He said, “You show up at the right time, in the right uniform, ready to work.”

Maybe a lot of you figured that out early on. I didn’t. I was young. I was perpetually messing up or not meeting people’s expectations or standards by trying to skate by on charm, mercy, and occasionally getting lucky. I was a kid.

In that one moment, trying to figure out what my major malfunction in life was, I finally understood something that would save me a lot of trouble. Show up in the right uniform, at the right time, ready to work.

The novel is a leviathan. Maybe Melville was really identifying more with Ahab than anyone else. When I wrote my first published book The Old Man and the Wasteland, I knew it had to be the best. I knew I’d get one shot with readers. It couldn’t skate by. This novel was going into the battle that is the marketplace and it needed to be ready. It needed to show up only when it was ready. I held myself to those words. I didn’t let myself say “good enough” until it was ready. It wasn’t done until it was prepared to show up at the right time, in the right uniform, ready to work.

A long time ago I was a young kid, waiting to get in trouble again. I learned something in the Army that would one day help me write a book other people might actually want to read. Thank God for whatever experiences that 1st Sgt had: Vietnam, life, an endless parade of clueless kids who thought life was something else. Thank God for him. And … thank you, 1st Sgt Bannon, wherever you are.


HENRY V. O’NEIL, author of Glory Main and Orphan Brigade in the Sim War series

I graduated from West Point in 1985, and spent the next few years as an officer in the US Army Infantry. I was a platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division at the newly-activated Fort Drum, N.Y. and then served as a company commander with the 1-508th Airborne Battalion in Panama.

During those years I got to meet just about everybody. One of the great things about military service is that the people you work with come from every part of the United States (as well as other countries) and from every walk of life. I quickly learned that there was a vast pool of talent all around me, and that it was important to foster an environment where individuals would step forward to offer their advice or special skills when they were needed.

I incorporated that lesson in my military science fiction tale of survival, Glory Main. In that story, four strangers find themselves marooned on a seemingly barren planet. Confronted with increasingly dangerous threats, their survival often hinges on the hidden talents and inner strengths of the group’s dissimilar members.

Another lesson from my time in the Army was the importance of building genuine, functioning teams. When a team member feels his or her contribution is unwelcome or unappreciated, it can cause that individual to stop trying, or even to withdraw from the group. The initial behavior of the castaways in Glory Main threatened to do just that, and it was an interesting exercise to come up with plot developments that overcame that problem.

Although I never went to the war zone, peacetime training exercises showed me just how complex a military operation can be. When different units act in concert, especially for the first time, there is a huge potential for confusion. Even with effective communication and the best intentions, things still get SNAFU’d all by themselves.

After Glory Main, I wanted to write a story that explored how minor miscalculations can have an enormous impact on a military operation’s success and dire consequences for the soldiers involved. A big battle scene in Orphan Brigade —the sequel to Glory Main—includes a chain of missteps that put the soldiers of the Orphan Brigade in an extremely dangerous situation.

The Human Defense Force depicted in this series is not meant to represent any existing military organization, but of course I was able to draw on my Army experience for the atmosphere and the tone. Both books are a testament to the toughness and resilience of human beings, which I saw demonstrated many times in my years with the Infantry. Whenever I capture that successfully, it’s a tribute to the dedicated men and women of our armed forces.

Uncategorized |

Out Today: THE GIVEN by Vicki Pettersson and DARK MATTER from Ian Douglas!

Out now in paperback and ebook:


by Vicki Pettersson

The dramatic conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Vicki Pettersson’s critically acclaimed Celestial Blues series—an inventive blend of paranormal romance, noir mystery, and urban fantasy—involving a fallen angel and a flesh-and-blood rockabilly reporter.





Out now in mass market and ebook:

Star Carrier Book Five
by Ian Douglas

An enemy might just have to become an ally in order to save humankind in Ian Douglas’s new Star Carrier novel!





Voyager US |

Voyager books on ebook sale through April 14

We’ve got a great way to kick off the week – an ebook sale on some great Harper Voyager books! These three books are on sale today through April 14, across all e-reader platforms. So what are you waiting for? Get these deals while they last!

BY THE BLOOD OF HEROES by Joseph Nassise. $0.99. The first book of The Great Undead War series, this alternate history blends steampunk, horror, and action all into one heart-pounding read. At the tail end of 1917, the Germans introduced a new type of gas to the battlefield, T-Leiche, or “corpse gas,” and changed the face of the war by resurrecting the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited source of fresh troops. The sequel, ON HER MAJESTY’S BEHALF, will publish in December 2014.

Amazon Kindle link

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THE ECHO by James Smythe. $1.99. The second book in the Anomaly Quartet, The Echo picks up where The Explorer left off. The disappearance of the spaceship Ishiguro twenty-three years ago devastated the global space program and set back exploration for a generation. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of twin brothers Mira and Tomas Hyvonen, the program has been resurrected. Spearheading a new age of human discovery, the brothers also hope to solve the mystery behind the Ishiguro‘s disastrous mission.

Amazon Kindle link

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DEEP SPACE by Ian Douglas. $0.99. The fourth book of the New York Times bestselling Star Carrier series, Deep Space is an action-packed tale of humankind’s struggle to bring down an evil empire that spans the universe. Twenty years after the fragile truce with the Sh’daar, Koenig is now President of the USNA, and Gray is skipper of the CVS America… soon to be promoted to commander of the entire battle group, Koenig’s old position, and one which he might not be ready for. The truce with the alien Sh’daar is unraveling as many predicted, and Humankind still knows little about them, or what they are. The fifth book of the series, DARK MATTER, will publish in June 2014.

Amazon Kindle link

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Voyager US |

You can win a grab-bag of Voyager goodies!

It’s another Friday giveaway here at Voyager, but this week is an extra special one! We have two exclusive Harper Voyager tote bags STUFFED with fantastic HarperCollins books and swag – advanced reader’s copies, temporary tattoos, pins and more!

Inside the bag you’ll find a great selection of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, and mystery titles. There’s even an online sampler of our newest books, which gives you a sneak peek at what’s to come. You can even deck yourself out with a DEAD RUN tattoo while you read through these titles.

Enter to win by 6 p.m. EST by leaving a comment below, or by RT us on Twitter – @HarperVoyagerUS! Good luck! Two winners will be randomly selected and contacted directly. (Open to U.S. only.)

Voyager US |

Four fabulous Voyager books publish today!

Today, FOUR of our amazing Voyager books are released! Consider it Christmas in October, or an early Halloween present! Be sure to get your hands on our new releases today.

DEAD SET by Richard Kadrey is released today! The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Sandman Slim series has written a stand alone novel about a teenage girl Zoe who is trying to find her way. After her father’s funeral, Zoe moved to the big city with her mother to start over. But change always brings trials, and life in the city is not so easy. Money is tight, and Zoe’s only escape, as has always been the case, is in her dreams. But something or someone has entered her dreamworld uninvited. And a chance encounter at a used record store, where the vinyl holds not music but lost souls, has opened up a portal to the world of the restless dead. It’s here that the shop’s strange proprietor offers Zoe the chance to commune with her dead father. The price? A lock of hair. Then a tooth. Then …

Find out why Kami Garcia (co-author of Beautiful Creatures)  says, “A dark and eerie world, a razor sharp plot, and a heroine worth rooting for make DEAD SET unforgettable.”

Buy Dead Set: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM

ABYSS DEEP, book 2 in the Star Corpsman series by New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas, is out today.  As Bravo Company defuses a hostage crisis on an orbiting mining station, Navy Corpsman Elliot “Doc” Carlyle not only saves the lives of a wounded Marine and two extraterrestrial friendlies—he averts a terrorist strike intended to kill billions. His reward? Deployment on a recon mission into the darkest depths known to man.

Abyss Deep is a foreboding ocean planet torn by extremes: boiling storm world on one side, unbroken glacier on the other. Humans established a research colony there to study the planet’s giant sea serpents—but the colony has gone ominously silent. When Carlyle’s team arrives, they discover a vessel belonging to a warlike alien species hovering above the atmosphere. But below the ice lurks a mystery so chilling it will make even Elliot Carlyle’s blood run cold.

Buy Abyss Deep: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM

EVER AFTER, book 11 of The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, is out in mass market paperback! And this edition contains an original short story, TROUBLE ON THE RESERVE, at the end of the book!

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels our own, is shrinking, and it’s up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to stop it before the fragile balance between Inderlanders and humans falls apart.

Of course, there’s also the small fact that Rachel caused the ley line to rip in the first place. And the most powerful demon in the ever-after, the soul-eater Ku’Sox Sha-Ku’ru, has kidnapped her friend and her goddaughter as leverage in his quest for vengeance. If Rachel doesn’t give herself up for execution, they will die. Rachel must team up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack— a partnership fraught with perils of the heart and soul— to rescue those she loves.

Buy Ever After: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM

DREAMS AND SHADOWS is now out in paperback! Screenwriter and acclaimed film critic C. Robert Cargill made his fiction debut with Dreams and Shadows, taking beloved fantasy tropes, giving them a twist, and turning out a wonderful, witty, and wry take on clash between the fairy world and our own.

Something is missing from Ewan and Colby’s lives. Residing in the corners of their memories is their time in Limestone Kingdom, a realm filled with magic and mystery, a world where only some may travel among the menagerie of mystical souls and sinister demons.

Buy Dreams and Shadows: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | BAM


Voyager US |

Enter to win Ian Douglas military sf books!

Calling all Ian Douglas fans! For today’s Friday giveaway, you have the chance to win three Book 1 picks from some of Douglas’ most incredible military sf series! We’ll be choosing at random the first book from five different series, including:

EARTH STRIKE (Star Carrier series)

SEMPER MARS (The Heritage Trilogy)

STAR STRIKE (The Inheritance Trilogy)

STAR CORPS (The Legacy Trilogy)

BLOODSTAR (Star Corpsman series)

Winners will receive a bundle of three books. All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment below, or re-Tweet us on Twitter - @HarperVoyagerUS! Enter by 6 p.m. EST. Good luck!

Contest for U.S. only. 

Voyager US |

We’ve got 6 great ebooks on sale today!

Stock up on some great Harper Voyager e-books before Labor Day weekend! We have several titles on sale for all e-book readers from $0.99-$2.99. But hurry and grab your copy now – most of these sales end TODAY!

DREAMS AND SHADOWS by C. Robert Cargill, who takes beloved fantasy tropes, gives them a twist, and turns out a wonderful, witty, and wry take on clash between the fairy world and our own. Perfect for fans of dark urban fantasy, and fairy tale/horror mash-ups. Something is missing from Ewan and Colby’s lives. Residing in the corners of their memories is their time in Limestone Kingdom, a realm filled with magic and mystery, a world where only some may travel among the menagerie of mystical souls and sinister demons.


THE OLD MAN AND THE WASTELAND and THE SAVAGE BOY by Nick Cole. In The Old Man and the Wasteland, it’s 40 years after the destruction of civilization and man is reduced to salvaging the ruins of a broken world. One man’s most prized possession is Hemingway’s Classic The Old Man and the Sea. With the words of the novel echoing across the wasteland, a survivor of the nuclear holocaust journeys into the unknown to break a curse. What follows is an incredible tale of survival and endurance. In The Savage Boy, amid the Wasteland remains of a world destroyed by a devastating thermonuclear armageddon, barbaric tribes rule the New American Dark Age. A boy and his horse must complete the final mission of the last American soldier. What unfolds is an coming-of-age epic journey across a terrifying America gone savage.

DEEP SPACEby Ian Douglas. The fourth book in the Star Carrier series, Deep Space is an action-packed tale of humankind’s struggle to bring down an evil empire that spans the universe. Twenty years after the fragile truce with the Sh’daar, Koenig is now President of the USNA, and Gray is skipper of the CVS America… soon to be promoted to commander of the entire battle group, Koenig’s old position, and one which he might not be ready for. The truce with the alien Sh’daar is unraveling as many predicted, and Humankind still knows little about them, or what they are.

THE GATHERING OF THE LOST by Helen Lowe.  The second of four books in the Wall of Night series, it’s set in a fantastic imperiled realm garrisoned by nine great Houses and protected from the terrible Darkswarm by the towering mountain range that gives the series its name. Supremely literate, brilliantly imagined and executed fantasy The Gathering of the Lost is populated by a grand cast of unforgettable characters, some still holding to the beleaguered Wall, others scattered in their quest for the fabled Heir of Night, who vanished from their midst five years earlier.


THE OUTLAW DEMON WAILS by Kim Harrison. To save the lives of her friends, Rachel Morgan did the unthinkable: she willingly trafficked in forbidden demon magic. And now her sins are coming home to haunt her. As Rachel searches for the truth behind a terrifying murder, an even greater menace threatens, for the demon Algaliarept will stop at nothing to claim her, and the discovery of a shocking family secret throws Rachel’s entire life into question. If she is ever to live free, Rachel must first walk willingly into the demonic ever-after in search of long-lost ancient knowledge.

E-book sales are all available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, Books-A-Million, Kobo, and Google Play.



Voyager US |

Today only! Ebook sale for Ian Douglas’s DEEP SPACE!

Love military sf? And e-books? DEEP SPACE is a one day ebook sale!

The fourth book in the popular Star Carrier science fiction series, Deep Space by Ian Douglas is an action-packed tale of humankind’s struggle to bring down an evil empire that spans the universe.

Twenty years after the fragile truce with the Sh’daar, Koenig is now President of the USNA, and Gray is skipper of the CVS America… soon to be promoted to commander of the entire battle group, Koenig’s old position, and one which he might not be ready for. The truce with the alien Sh’daar is unraveling as many predicted, and Humankind still knows little about them, or what they are.

It’s a Kindle Daily Deal!

Have a Nook or love indie booksellers? No worries!

It’s also $1.99 on the Nook!

And on Kobo!

And on Sony!

Sake price should be matched on all US platforms.

Voyager US |


Dear Reader—

I am thrilled to introduce the 2013 Harper Voyager sampler in time for Comic-Con International! We’ve got a lot of great titles and authors this year, and have cleverly offered up excerpts to tempt your reading (and hopefully shopping!) list.

With genres like science fiction, epic fantasy, urban and paranormal fantasy, military science fiction, supernatural, near-future thriller, and more, plus authors including Kim Harrison, Raymond E. Feist, Robin Hobb, Richard Kadrey, Vicki Pettersson, Ian Douglas, and newcomers like C. Robert Cargill, Nick Cole, among others, there’s something for everyone in our sampler, and we hope you enjoy it!

Click here to download now!

Want more? Visit us on Faceook for e-book deals as well as on Twitter for info on new and upcoming books, giveaways, digital deals, notices and much more!

Happy Reading!
Diana Gill
Executive Editor, Harper Voyager

Here’s the Table of Contents:

SECONDS, David Ely
BLACK SUN REICH, Trey Garrison
MAGICIAN’S END, Raymond E. Feist
EVER AFTER, Kim Harrison
THE LOST, Vicki Pettersson
KILL CITY BLUES, Richard Kadrey
CHIMERA, David Wellington
ABYSS DEEP, Ian Douglas
DEAD SET, Richard Kadrey
THE DEAD RUN, Adam Mansbach

Voyager US |

1-Day E-book Sale: EARTH STRIKE, Ian Douglas

Ian Douglas’s EARTH STRIKE is the Kindle Daily Deal for SF/F!

It’s also $.99 on the Nook! 

EARTH STRIKE is the first Star Carrier novel–the first book in the epic saga of humankind’s war of transcendence. There is a milestone in the evolution of every sentient race, a Tech Singularity Event, when the species achieves transcendence through its technological advances. Now the creatures known as humans are near this momentous turning point.

But an armed threat is approaching from deepest space, determined to prevent humankind from crossing over that boundary—by total annihilation if necessary.

Read the first few chapters of EARTH STRIKE here.


US and Canada only.

Voyager US |

Advanced Excerpt of Ian Douglas' DEEP SPACE

Star Carrier Book FourWe’ve got a sneak preview of the fourth book in Ian Douglas’ military SF Star Carrier series—Deep Space, out on April 30–check out this excerpt!

About the Book:

Humanity had appeared to fend off the Sh’daar assault once and for all, though they never learned why the alien empire was driven to halt Earth’s advancement toward technological Singularity.

But in this war of worlds, victory is always elusive. And now a new battle begins.

After twenty years of peace, not one but two fragile truces are unraveling. Alexander Koenig, the former Navy commander whose heroics forced the Sh’daar into submission, has won a second term as President of the United States of North America. But pursuing his mandate—sovereignty from the centuries-old Earth Confederation—becomes a risky proposition dueto events taking place on the other side of the galaxy. A Confederation research vessel has been ambushed. Destroyers are descending on a human colony. It seems the Sh’daar have betrayed their treaty, and all nations must stand united—or face certain death.


Chapter One

25 September 2424

TC/USNA RSV Endeavor
The Black Rosette,
Omega Centauri
16,000 light years from Earth
1330 hours, TFT

Nothing like it had been seen ever before, even in a galaxy as strange and as wonder-filled as the Milky Way. The USNA deep-space research survey vesselEndeavor edged as close to this particular wonder as her captain dared, as clouds of drones and AI reconnaissance vessels probed the outermost fringes of the Rosette’s twisted central vortex.

They called it the Black Rosette—six black holes balanced in a tight, gravitational embrace and whirling about a common center. Each was slightly larger than Earth; each possessed a mass of some forty times Earth’s sun and was moving at almost 26,000 kilometers per second . . . better than 0.08 c. A total mass 240 times that of Earth’s sun, rotating that quickly, twisted the fabric of the spacetime within which it was embedded and did unexpected things to the geometry of local space. From the perspective of the crew on board theEndeavor, organic and otherwise, it appeared that the central void between the whirling black holes was filled with soft white starlight. As the Endeavor drifted past the open face of the Rosette, however, details of that light shifted and changed, revealing, it seemed, a succession of starscapes, densely packed alien starclouds and constellations flickering from one to another . . . a gateway into myriad alternate panoramas of thick-strewn stars.

At certain angles, Endeavor’s sensors detected fierce storms of radiation emerging from the gateway; at others, the emerging radiation was at normal background levels, though a certain amount of hard gamma continued to flood through local space from the six mutually orbiting black holes. The whirling sextet appeared to be enmeshed in a thin, hot cloud of gas drawn from surrounding space, and the planet-sized black holes were made somewhat visible as the resultant blue-violet plasma was greedily devoured in shrieks of gamma and X-ray radiation.

Endeavor’s commanding officer, Captain Sheri Hodgkins, checked the ambient radiation levels on the research vessel’s skin and decided that they were quite close enough. In fact . . .

“Pull us back a few hundred kilometers, Mr. Colger.”

“Aye, aye, Captain. Maneuvering . . .”

Hodgkins was linked through her cerebral implants to the ship’s AI, and in the window open within her mind she could see the Endeavor pulling back slightly from the massive whirlpool ahead. Like most large star-faring vessels of Earth,Endeavor was mushroom-shaped, her labs and drives within her axial stem, her hab and command modules rotating about the stem, and both tucked away within the shadow of an immense mushroom cap. The water within the shield cap both provided fuel for her fusion drives and protection from sleeting radiation at near-c velocities. The shield was serving now to deflect or absorb most of the radiation from the Rosette ahead; her magnetic hull shields provided some protection, but she didn’t want to take chances with the radiation storm outside the ship’s hull.

Endeavor’s two escorts, the destroyers Miller and Herrera, maintained their formation on the survey vessel. No one was quite certain what the Sh’daar response would be to a survey probe this deep inside their cluster. For sixteen years the Omega Treaty had held. And yet . . .

“Captain, we’re detecting movement inside the vortex.”

“What kind of movement?”

“Multiple targets at very high speed! Closing vector! . . .”

“Helm! Pull us back! Comm! Alert our escorts!”

But the Miller was already breaking in two, its central spine and portions of its mushroom cap dissolving in a smear of white hot plasma. Herrera had time to lock on and trigger her main particle beam weapons, but within seconds her grav shields had overloaded and she was being pounded into fragments by a storm of relativistic particles snapping up out of the vortex.

Endeavor was hit, her shield cap ripping open and disgorging a vast and glittering cloud of gleaming crystals as her water reserves hit hard vacuum and froze. Hodgkins grabbed the arms of her command chair as the bridge shuddered, then tore free, tumbling wildly into space.

“Comm! Emergency broadcast! . . .”

. . . and then the bridge was engulfed by the expanding white flare of a small detonating sun as her fusion core ruptured.


Five seconds later, the AI of a robotic HVK-724 highvelocity scout-courier on station 1.5 million kilometers away noted the destruction of the expedition’s three capital ships and immediately engaged its primary program.

Earth lay sixteen thousand light years away. At its maximum Alcubierre warp effect, the courier would arrive in another forty-four days.


7 November 2424

Confederation Naval Base Dylan
Arianrhod, 36 Ophiuchi AIII
0618 hours, TFT

“Bay doors are open,” the voice said in her head. “VFA140, you are clear for launch.”

Lieutenant Megan Connor felt her fighter shake and tremble, the shock of a nearby explosion propagating through rock, the ferrocrete of the fighter bay dock, and the structure of her fighter. “Copy, Arianrhod Control,” she said. “On my command, Dracos, in five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . launch!”

Acceleration slammed her back against the embrace of her fighter’s cockpit as she hurtled down the magrail toward a distant point of light. The point expanded with startling swiftness, then exploded around her, a burst of brilliant, golden daylight as she emerged into the open air.

She thoughtclicked a control, and the intermittent singularity off her fighter’s bow flared into a dazzling arc-bright glare, the microscopic black hole gulping down atmosphere in flaring blue-white light. Behind her, a pair of incoming missiles slammed against the mountain housing the Confederation base but she held her Stardragon level, forming up with the other fighters matching her vector to left and right. The Silverwheel Sea, vast and straw-yellow, surged beneath her fighter’s keel.

More missiles incoming. “Going vertical!” she called to the others, “in three . . . two . . . one . . . break!”

Together, the flight of nine SG-112 Stardragons swung to an ascending vector, streaking up into a brilliant golden sky stacked high with billowing clouds. Falling skyward at five hundred gravities, the fighters swiftly punched through the clouds and fast-thinning atmosphere and into open space.

“Combat mode,” she snapped. “Formation break!” The Dragons’ adaptive nanomatrix hulls shifted and flowed, changing from sleek, black deltas to Y shapes, the weapons pods extended at the ends of the three forward-canted wings. Those two incoming missiles had curved upward, following the flight of Draco squadron Stardragons all the way up from the deck. Lieutenants Allende and Larson, bringing up the rear of the formation, loosed bursts of KAM pellets—kinetic-kill anti-missile projectiles that slammed into the Slan warheads and detonated them 10 kilometers astern.

Within Connor’s in-head display, a Slan destroyer changed vector to intercept them, the image magnified to show the flat blade of a hull and eight projecting shark fins, the vessel painted a flat white with bold red slashes and blotches. Little was known about the Slan save that they were another Sh’daar client race. The characteristic color scheme of their warship hulls, Intelligence thought, might represent some predator from the Slan homeworld, but even that much was pure guesswork.

She selected the destroyer with her inner eyes, selected a weapon—a VG-44c Fer-de-lance antiship missile—and clicked the blinking launch icon in her mind. “Ferdie armed!” she cried. “Fox One!”

A nuclear-tipped missile slipped from her low-keel fin and streaked toward the destroyer. The other fighters were peeling off in every direction, engaging a sky filled with targets. . . .

The star 36 Ophiuchi was a triple-star system just 19.5 light years from Earth, and 10 light years from the enemyoccupied system of 70 Ophiuchi, and the world Osiris. The A and B components, both K2-class orange stars, circled each other in an extremely elliptical mutual orbit lasting 570 years, the two coming as close to each other as 7 astronomical units and receding out to as far as 169 AUs. Currently, they were 30 AUs apart, and 36 Oph B appeared as a tiny orange spark in the blackness well beyond the nearer disk of 36 Oph A. A third, smaller red-orange star, 36 Ophiuchi C, orbited the two main stars at a comfortable distance of 5,000 AUs, or some eight hundredths of a light year, a spark so wan and dim it could not be picked out by the naked eye.

The system was still young—less than a billion years old—and filled with asteroidal debris and comets. A dozen comets blazed with icy light, their tails smeared across the heavens away from the orange sun. The planet dubbed Arianrhod by its colonizers was properly 36 Ophiuchi AIII, the third of four small and rocky planets. Located a little more than half an AU from its sun, it lay near the center of the system’s habitable zone. Mostly covered by liquid water, the world was twice the mass of Earth. The major landmass was the Caer Arianrhod Archipelago in the southern hemisphere, and was the location of the research colony of Silverwheel.

Arianrhod offered Confederation xenoplanet specialists the splendid opportunity to study an Earthlike planet still in the final stages of formation. Earth itself must have looked much the same 3.5 to 4 billion years ago. The atmosphere was a poisonous brew of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen, and sulfur dioxide. Volcanoes dotted the vast and rolling oceans, and asteroids and comets continued to slam into the young world, generating apocalyptic tidal waves. Silverwheel, most of it, was underground, as was the large USNA naval base protecting it. The land, when it was above water, was rocky, barren, and lifeless.

Yet, despite this, life bloomed in the oceans, raising questions about the nature, variety, and extensiveness of early life in Earth’s seas. It was known that life had appeared in Earth’s seas within a scant few hundred million years of the formation of a solid crust . . . but that life had remained single-celled and relatively simple for the next 2.5 billion years or so, and hadn’t learned how to manage the multicellular trick until about a billion years ago. Multicellular life forms, some of them as complex as things like colonial jellyfish and free-swimming tunicate worms, had already evolved in Arianrhod’s seas.

Theorists had suggested that life might have evolved not once, but many times on Earth; others suggested that radiation from the planet’s sun had given evolution a swift kick in the ass. Arianrhod offered xenobiologists the unparalleled opportunity to watch the process in action. The planet had been named deliberately for an ancient Celtic goddess of fertility, rebirth, and the weaving of cosmic fate. Someday, in a billion years or so, this world might be another Earth; in the meantime, it offered Humankind an unparalleled chance to study planetary evolution. Silverwheel’s twenty thousand inhabitants were almost all scientists and their families.

The Slan attack had not been entirely unexpected.

Osiris, 70 Ophiuchi AII, had been hit and overrun twenty years ago by a combined Turusch-Nungiirtok assault force. Osiris, though, was one of a handful of so-called garden worlds, planets with oxygen-nitrogen atmospheres and extensive biospheres where humans could live and work without cumbersome biosuits or nanoskins. The government council at Silverwheel had been hoping that the enemy wanted to take over pleasant, Earthlike worlds, not poisonous biomes-in-the-making like Arianrhod. And as year followed year, they’d begun to relax. Arianrhod did not appear to be on the enemy’s target list.

Until now. Unlike the civilian government at Silverwheel, the Navy had long suspected that one or another of the Sh’daar client species would make a grab for 36 Ophiuchi, and deployed three fighter squadrons to defend the system. Two, the Dracos and the Reapers, had been stationed at the naval base protecting Silverwheel, with a third, the Blood Knights, operating out of an orbital base called Caer Gwydion. Picket drones in the outer system had noted the approach of a sizeable naval force two days ago, apparently coming from the general direction of 70 Ophiuchi.

The fleet, which had turned out to be Slan, was a mix of the lance-blade destroyers and a large number of planetary bombardment vessels, code-named Trebuchets by Confederation Military Intelligence. The three squadrons had been flying almost nonstop, with brief returns to base for rearming and repairs between missions. Caer Gwydion had been struck by a trio of two-hundred-megaton warheads ten hours ago and turned into an expanding cloud of hot gas.

But the surviving fighters continued to hurl themselves at the enemy force, as their numbers dwindled and casualties mounted.

Lieutenant Sheridan’s Stardragon took a direct hit from a Slan beam weapon, her fighter vaporized in an instant, like a moth in an open flame.

“All Dracos!” Connor called. “Vector on the Trebs on planetary approach! Let’s see if we can break up that attack!”

The alien Trebuchets were ungainly, boxy affairs utterly unlike the sleek destroyers. Each was a little more than 200 meters in length, painted black with random, bright green slashes, and carried piggyback a single massive nuclear missile with a five-hundred-megaton fusion warhead. They approached in waves, lining up on the target planet and loosing the missiles as they streaked inbound. Even from 15,000 kilometers out, Connor could see the periodic twinkles of detonations concentrated on the northern coast of the Sumatra-sized landmass where Silverwheel lay buried, and more planetbusters were inbound. Even the deeply buried research colony wouldn’t be able to hold out for much longer against that savage planetary bombardment.

Dropping into a trajectory that put her on the stern of one of the inbound Trebs, she selected the target with a thought, then thoughtclicked the mind’s-eye icon for a VG-10 Krait, armed it, and loosed it, sending the smart missile streaking in toward the falling enemy bomber. Before the missile could cross the intervening gulf, however, the enormous missile strapped to the Treb’s dorsal hull released, drifted clear, and then began accelerating toward the planet. Connor targeted the missile as well, sending a second VG-10 streaking after it.

She couldn’t take the time to watch the results of her shots, but spun her Stardragon end for end, decelerating sharply, then spun through 90 degrees to acquire another target. She marked a second Trebuchet and sent another Krait smart missile flashing toward it.

Surrounding space was filled with pulsing flashes of silent light, the brilliant detonations of nuclear warheads in space, and with softly glowing clouds of expanding debris, chunks of shredded spacecraft, and occasional disabled fighters tumbling end for end, streaming atmosphere. Through her communications link, Connor could hear the calls and warnings of the other pilots in her squadron:

“Draco Three, Draco Seven! You’ve got a Stiletto on your six. . . .”

“I see him, Seven! I can’t shake him!”

“I’m on him! On my mark, break high and right . . . three . . . two . . . one . . .break!”

“Draco Ten! Draco Ten, this is Four! Close and assist!”

“Copy, ten! Arming Kraits! . . .”

“Stilettos! I’ve got six Stilettos, bearing one-seven-niner . . .”

“Fox One! Fox One! Missiles away!”

“Let’s nail those Trebs at zero-one-eight!”

“Hit! I got one! I got one!”

“Draco One! Watch it, Skipper! Three Stilettos high and on your six! Coming out of the sun! . . .”

With a thought, Connor spun her fighter around, flying backward now, as she searched the sky through her Stardragon’s enhanced senses. Stiletto was the Confederation name for the Slan equivalent of the space fighter, a slender, three-winged delta like an arrowhead, built around a powerful spinal-mounted fusion weapon that could chew through even a Stardragon’s nanomatrix hull with a direct hit. The modern space fighter was designed to repair battle damage even while the craft was still in combat, but a beam of mag-bottled fusing hydrogen coming in at a substantial percentage of c could overwhelm the best defenses and leave very little behind but expanding hot gas.

“Copy!” Connor yelled, and she fired another Fer-delance, targeting the middle of three enemy fighters bearing down on her. VG-44c shipkillers were intended for use against large enemy vessels . . . a hundred thousand tons and up . . . but a big enough plasma ball might take out all three of the deadly Slan fighters. If it could get through . . .

No joy. A fusion beam snapped out from one of the Stilettos and vaporized the missile a thousand kilometers short. A second Slan beam lanced across the intervening gulf and narrowly missed her Stardragon as her fighter’s AI, anticipating the shot with reactions far faster than any human’s, jinked to starboard.

Connor launched a cloud of spoofers—pencil-sized projectiles that continually broadcast the image, mass, and RF noise of a Stardragon, creating a cloud of images where an instant before there’d been one. Enemy sensors and computer targeting would be good enough to maintain a target lock despite the decoys, but a burst of gravitic pulses scrambled the Slan targeting picture. A second fusion beam swiped through the decoys, vaporizing dozens of them but missing her. She fired another Fer-de-lance . . . then a third and a fourth, hoping to overwhelm the Slan fighters’ defenses.

At her back, her first Krait detonated astern of the Slan Trebuchet, a blossoming white fireball that consumed the enemy vessel in a searing, hellish instant. Connor’s fighter continued to twist and dodge, accelerating hard into a new vector that should take her past the fast-approaching limb of the planet. The first Fer-de-lance aimed at her pursuers was vaporized by an enemy fusion beam. Damn . . .

Something slammed into her fighter, a savage shock that put her into an uncontrollable tumble. She scanned the data scrolling through her mind, lists of damage, of system failure, of power-plant shutdown. “Dracos, Draco One!” she called. “I’m hit!”

The second Fer-de-lance was wiped from the sky. The Slan fighters were closing fast. . . .

“Draco Two!” she added. “Do you copy?”

“One, Six,” another voice replied. Draco Six was Lieutenant Yamaguchi. “Two’s bought it. Can I assist?”

“Controls and power unresponsive,” she said. “You’ve got the squadron.”

“I copy, One. Vectoring for—”

Yamaguchi’s voice was chopped off by a burst of fusionbeam static.

An instant later, her third Fer-de-lance swung through a broad curve and swept into the midst of the Stiletto fighters now just 3,000 kilometers distant. The explosion lit up the sky, and as the light faded, nothing but fist-sized debris tumbled out of the thinning plasma cloud.

Connor began assessing the situation. Her power plant was off-line; the pair of microsingularities that pulled unimaginable power from hard vacuum had evaporated. Her magnetic shields were down too, as well as her fighter’s gravitic drive. Weapons were dead. So was maneuvering. Life support was still going, thank the gods, sustained by her reserve fusion generators, and so were her flight sensors, her instrumentation, and her AI, but precious little else was working.

She asked the AI to plot her course toward Arianrhod, watching the curved green line come up on her in-head, skimming past the vast bulk of the world. She was falling at nearly 20 kilometers per second, her speed when she was hit. That was a good 5 kps or better than the planet’s escape velocity, and it looked like she was going to skim the atmosphere, then whip around, clean and clear, and continue falling out into deep space.

Connor wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about that. It meant she wasn’t going to burn up in the atmosphere in another few hundred seconds . . . and that meant that she had some time to let the ship regrow some of the damage.

But a quick, fiery death during re-entry might be better than freezing or asphyxiating as her life support gave out . . . or starving to death when the onboard nanoprocessors failed.

She didn’t have a lot of options.

Five minutes later, she hit atmosphere, her crippled Stardragon shaking and trembling as it shrieked through the tenuous outer layers and skimmed across gold-yellow oceans and swirling cloud banks just 80 kilometers up. Arianrhod’s atmosphere, under higher-than-Earth-normal gravity, was compacted more than the gas at this altitude over Earth. Near the surface, the atmospheric pressure was something like five times the pressure at Earth’s surface. Here, it was tenuous to the point of near vacuum . . . but Connor was traveling fast enough that hitting it jolted her with savage ferocity, and the black outer layers of her nanomatrix hull began to heat from friction. The temperature inside the close embrace of the cockpit climbed. Her pilot’s skin suit struggled to dump excess heat. She might still plunge deeply enough into thick air to burn up, a blazing shooting star streaking from the day side of the planet across the terminator and into night.

And then, miraculously, the trembling stopped, and she was outbound once more.

Blessedly, the brief passage through atmosphere had arrested her craft’s tumble as well. The sky no longer pirouetted around her head. She’d lost some velocity in the near passage, but she was still falling outbound at 16 kps . . . more than enough to escape from Arianrhod forever.

Streaker. That was the slang term among pilots for a ship so badly damaged that it was sent hurtling clear of battlespace on a vector that would take it into the cold and empty Beyond. Connor knew there would be no SAR vessels, no search and rescue to track her course and come to pick her up. The Slan, her telemetry told her, were breaking through everywhere. Huge vessels that most likely were Slan troop transports were entering the atmosphere and closing with the Silverwheel colony.

Her AI did suggest that at least some repairs were possible. She directed the damage control systems to focus on repairing the quantum tap array, with a view to bringing her main power systems back on-line. With enough power, anything was possible.

Without power, she was dead. . . .


Almost five and a half hours later, a robotic HVK-724 scoutcourier in a cold, distant orbit 40 AUs from Arianrhod caught an emergency transmission sent from Silverwheel. The transmission included an update on the battle for the 36 Ophiuchi system . . . news of the orbital Caer Gwydion station plus three fighter squadrons destroyed, of serious damage to the main colony facility on the surface, of reports of landings by heavily armored assault forces and the destruction of the Dylan underground naval base.

The scout-courier engaged its primary program, dropping into Alcubierre space and vanishing from the sane and normal matrix of spacetime. It had taken the signal 5.3 light minutes to crawl out from the planet, but at its maximum Alcubierre warp effect, the courier would cross the 19.5 light years between 35 Ophiuchi and Sol in just one hour, eighteen minutes.

It was pure coincidence that news of two Confederation naval disasters would arrive at Earth within a day of each other.


Freedom Concourse
Columbus, District of Columbia,
North American Union
0749 hours, TFT

“Captain Gray, Comm. Important message coming through, priority urgent.”

Trevor “Sandy” Gray, commanding officer of the star carrier America, paused in mid-stride as the AI voice spoke in his head. Around him, the Freedom Concourse was thronged with people, part of the brawling, noisy celebration following the president’s re-election. “Go ahead,” he thought.

“Voice only, full immersion, or text?”

“Text, please.”

A window opened in his mind and the words scrolled down.


FROM: Confederation Naval HQ
TO: All CN Commands

Courier packet reports Confederation research colony Silverwheel on Arianrhod, 36 Ophiuchi AII, has just fallen to Slan assault forces. . . .


The message, terse and to the point, went on to say that at least twelve Saber-class destroyers, fifty Trebuchet-class bombardment vessels, and a large number of Stiletto fighters had taken part in the attack, and that both the colony and the underground naval base were now presumed lost. The final attack had gone down less than two hours ago.

The message was signed Ronald Kinkaid, Admiral, CO CNHQ, Mars.

The words faded, and Gray’s awareness returned fully to his surroundings. A man, fashionably nude except for animated tattoos and an anonymously opaque sensory helmet bumped into him from behind. “Sorry, Captain.”

“S’okay.” The man’s tattoo display included the word FREEDOM stretching from collar bone to groin, flashing across the entire spectrum of colors and highlighted by the strobe and flash of fireworks writhing across his skin.

Gray shook his head and started walking again. The crowd was thick enough that stopping in midstream could be hazardous. Ahead, the government building towered above the plaza in a series of curves and ornamental buttresses, and the mob appeared to be centered on the building’s base.

Koenig’s victory, he thought, appeared to have opened the Freedom party floodgates, an anti-Confederation mandate for USNA freedom.

Or possibly, the cynic within Gray’s mind suggested, it was just that Americans enjoyed the popular sport known as politics. Give them something to cheer about, to demonstrate about, to vote about, and they were there.

It was, he thought, exactly the right sentiment at exactly the wrong time. If 36 Ophiuchi had fallen to the Slan fleet, it meant that the Sh’daar were on the move once more, and it meant that North American independence simply was not going to happen. Humankind, a united Humankind, would have to face that threat, and all the popular demonstrations, all the fireworks, all the noise on the planet wasn’t going to change that.

Gray had come down on a shuttle early that morning specifically to offer his personal congratulations to the president . . . but this, he decided, would not be the best moment for personal visits and reminiscences.

He hesitated a moment, bracing himself against the crowd, then turned and began to retrace his steps toward Starport Columbus.

Gray needed to get back to Synchorbit, back to the ship, and quickly.

He was almost all the way back to the Star Carrier America, on board the shuttle, when the second message of disaster arrived.

Voyager US |


Happy Holidays! To celebrate, we are dropping ebook prices on some wonderful titles–all below $1.99! This will remain until early January 2013.

Fistful of Charms by Kim Harrison–includes an excerpt from her upcoming novel EVER AFTER! 

Flight of the Nighthawks by Raymond E. Feist

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan

Star Strike by Ian Douglas

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats by Mario Acevedo