Archive | January, 2014

New Free Book–And Fan Fiction

31 Jan

I’ve uploaded a new free book to my site – The Uninvited (blurb below.) I do intend to rewrite the book at some point, so comments would be welcome. I’ve also uploaded my very first piece of fan fiction – No More Justice, a short story set in the universe of The Empire’s Corps.

The Uninvited Cover Blurb

No One Can Stop Them…

They come in the night and take humans from their homes, abducting them to their ships and experimenting on them before returning their victims to their homes, unaware of what happened to them…until now. By sheer luck, Jon Sonnenleiter, a former Army Ranger and PI, obtains proof of the alien presence on Earth. Taking the information to the government, Jon is almost killed by federal agents.

With the government hunting them, Jon and a group of friends go on the run, struggling to uncover the truth behind the alien presence on Earth. They discover a terrifying aliens conspiracy that has been infiltrating the Earth for decades, one that is slowly coming out into the light. The race is on to stop the aliens before they take over the Earth, with all of humanity at stake…

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Quick Updates

25 Jan

Hi, everyone

I’m currently 28 chapters into Retreat Hell, which is Book 8 of The Empire’s Corps. It’s going harder than I expected, partly because this is the point where the mainstream storyline becomes even less self-contained than it already is. The previous books dealt with single events; this book sets up at least three more books, rather than disposing of a problem within one book. It is actually quite a fascinating problem to keep everything balanced so both the micro and macro storylines move along smoothly. I’m hoping it will come out fairly well.

Ark Royal has done extremely well in its first set of sales and I’ve had numerous demands for a sequel, so I’m currently planning one called The Nelson Touch. The trick, of course, will be to keep the focus on the characters while expanding the storyline. Still, I have several months to plan it out properly.

My current list of projects runs something like this. Learning Experience next, I think, depending on the plotline. Then The Royal Sorceress III: Necropolis, or Schooled in Magic V: The School of Hard Knocks. (I’ve actually got to conceptually-edit SIM IV before progressing to SIM V, so that might be delayed.) After that, I think I will do either The Nelson Touch or Democracy’s Price (Democracy III). If you want something earlier, please let me know.

I’m also working out a more detailed set of plotlines for alternate history stories. One would be a sequel to The Invasion of 1950, one would be a civil war in Nazi Germany at roughly 1980 or thereabouts. I don’t see Nazi Germany collapsing peacefully, not when the contradictions of the regime come home to roost. Besides, civil wars are more interesting than peaceful collapses.

I’m also looking at my older projects and wondering which of them might be suitable for Kindle.

There just aren’t enough days in the year to write everything I want to write. <sigh>

Comments are, as always, welcome.

Chris

Anglo-German War Post-Invasion of 1950

23 Jan

I’ve had a number of requests for a sequel to The Invasion of 1950, which surprised me by becoming a reasonable success on Amazon. Accordingly, I’ve been considering the overall course of the war after the German failure to conquer Britain and Himmler’s accession to succeed Hitler as Fuhrer. Somehow, I don’t think Himmler (or Churchill) would just try to end the war after that mishap. <grin>

As I see it, the Germans probably won’t have the capability to launch another invasion of Britain. They’d be forced to follow a Middle Eastern plan instead, building up in Libya, overrunning Malta … and then heading through Egypt to Palestine and Iraq. Nazi planners would see the Middle East as a potential hotbed of support as well as a source of oil and the springboard to India. Iran might well switch sides and join the Germans as soon as it was safe to do so, as the UK was … unpopular at the time. (The joint UK/Russia occupation of Iran ended in this timeline after Moscow fell, leaving the Iranians with a grudge.)

The wild card in all of this is Japan. There was no Pearl Harbour in this timeline; instead, the Japanese spent years trying to subdue an increasingly restive and resistant China. The Germans couldn’t offer the Japanese much, at least at first, to make up for the risk of attacking Britain and perhaps dragging the United States into the war. OTOH, Britain could offer the Japanese a great deal. But would the Japanese be willing to take it?

Another major issue is that of atomic science. The world’s atomic programs slowed down considerably in this timeline, after the US didn’t enter the war. The Nazis had the additional disadvantage of sneering at atomics, considering it Jewish science. This might well change if some cunning German scientist rebrands the work as his own, maybe with a fig-leaf about how Einstein et al took it from him when he was a grad student or something along those lines. I suspect that the Germans will have the resources to throw into a faster program, after losing the battle for Britain. Churchill will have to work hard to counteract the Nazi threat by open sabotage, which will be tricky. Parachute attack on the Nazi complex, anyone? It was done once.

Rockets are another interesting point. I think the Germans could have produced very basic recon satellites at that point, if they threw resources into it. Another problem for the UK to overcome.

In the long term, though, the Germans have a major advantage in manpower and technology. Bringing the US into the war might be the only way to even the odds. But would the Germans be stupid enough to launch something akin to Pearl Harbour in this timeline?

Thoughts?

Chris

The Race Card Is Not Accepted At This ATM

21 Jan

(Credit to Mike McDowell for the title.)

There are real racists out there. There really are people stupid enough to believe that the colour of a man’s skin means more than his character, general level of intelligence and the colour of his blood. Those people, however, do not include the vast majority of the population of America, who elected a Obama – a black man – to the highest position in the entire world. If every black person in America had voted for Obama – if they had been the ONLY people in America who had voted for Obama – Obama would have lost the election in 2008. No, Obama was elected by white voters as well as black voters.

He did have some advantages. When facing Hilary Clinton, who had a long history with the Democratic Party, he had the considerable advantage of … not being Hilary Clinton. The Clintons put a LOT of noses out of joint in Washington. Add in the fact that Obama was genuinely personable, reasonably handsome at the time (like all Presidents, he seems to have aged rapidly since taking office) and simply had much less apparent baggage than his opponents. When facing the Republicans, he was able to capitalise on Bush’s failures and problems (including the economic crash) that were blamed on the incumbent.

The gloss wore off quickly after Obama took office. As I see it, Obama simply never grasped the fact that he’d made it. To all intents and purposes, he kept campaigning for office despite having already won. The result was a series of major problems that rapidly alienated America’s allies, encouraged America’s enemies and caused considerable damage to the American society. Obama was (is) pretty much the political reincarnation of Tony Blair, who preferred to spin matters to make himself look good rather than actually try to fix them. The fact he was doing long-term damage to America’s society was immaterial compared to trying to take advantage of each and every crisis coming his way.

Eventually, things started to catch up with him. The IRS deliberately targeted conservative organisations – and Obama dismissed the colossal abuse of power this represented. American diplomats were murdered in Libya – and Obama let the matter slide. The NSA spied on American civilians and world leaders (I doubt anyone was surprised by this) and Obama blamed the messenger. American people are feeling the pinch – and Obama goes on expensive holidays that cost the taxpayer millions of dollars.

But these aren’t the only problems. The Affordable Care Act may or may not be a good idea, at least in the abstract. It is becoming clear, however, that the implementation of the ACA has run into more than a few problems. That isn’t too surprising – I have yet to hear of any program, government or corporate, that didn’t run into problems. Obama, however, promised much and delivered … well, almost nothing. More and more of his promises, in fact, are falling apart as people watch. People are losing their insurance (despite being promised they could keep it) and they’re being hurt. It should have surprised no one that Obama’s rating in the polls started to slump rather badly.

Obama’s response to this? “There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black President. Now, the flip side of it is there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black President.”  Link here.

In other words – “some of my opponents are only my opponents because they’re racists.”

One cannot prove a negative. No one can prove that they are not a racist. After all, open racism is so unfashionable these days. So we are rewarded, as we normally are when the race card is played, with genuflections towards the ideal of racial harmony. Obama wants to exploit the current tendency to bend over backwards to escape charges of racism.

The problem is not that Obama is black. The problem is that Obama has proved to be a failure as a President.

No one really expects perfection, even from the President of America. What they expect is honesty, a willingness to admit when things have gone wrong and a determined effort to fix the problem. Bush, for all his faults, did that when he ordered the Surge into Iraq. Obama, instead, is whining that some people dislike him because he’s black.

And, frankly, I think people are tired of it.

Retreat Hell (The Empire’s Corps VIII)–Snippet

19 Jan

For my readers – coming soon!

Prologue

Dateline – Two Months After the Fall of Corinthian

Admiral Rani Singh hated to lose.

She’d worked her way up the ranks through sheer stubbornness and native ability, forsaking all the shortcuts lecherous older officers offered her. She’d taken pride in not surrendering herself to the temptations, even when she’d been assigned to Trafalgar Naval Base by a particularly vindictive superior after she’d declined his advances. She’d even managed to turn a position that should have killed her career into a springboard to supreme power when the Empire started to withdraw from the sector, turning herself into a military dictator and ruler of a small empire of her own.

But then she’d lost everything, but her life and a handful of starships.

In hindsight, she saw – all too clearly – where she’d gone wrong. She hadn’t taken the Commonwealth seriously, not at the time. It was a gathering of stars and human settlements towards the Rim, on the opposite side of her headquarters to Earth. The Commonwealth should not have been able to put together a challenge to her forces, not the sector fleet she’d snatched almost intact during the final chaotic days of the Empire’s rule. But the Commonwealth had sent its people to Corinthian and undermined her rule. And when the ghost fleet had turned up, she’d panicked and lost everything.

Oh, she’d had plenty of time to think, she recalled, as the remains of her fleet had crept from hiding place to hiding place, fearful of an encounter that could have drained their finite supplies still further. Smaller and older ships had been cannibalised to keep the bigger ones operational, although she knew that even a victorious engagement could cost her everything; her crews had grown more and more restless, their loyalty only assured by the looming presence of her security forces. One day, she’d known, they might rise up against her – and, if they took the ships, surrender them to the Commonwealth. She’d slept with a pistol under her pillow and armed guards at her hatch.

She’d known – she had never truly been able to lie to herself – that the situation was desperate. Battleships required constant maintenance and an endless supply of spare parts, which they no longer possessed. Sooner or later, she would have to abandon some of her crewmen or run out of life support. Maybe she could have found a world they could occupy – she did have far more firepower with her than the average Rim world could deploy in its own defence – but that would have been a form of surrender. And yet it had started to look like the only option. It had been then, when she’d been in the depths of despair, that they’d stumbled across the ship from Wolfbane.

Rani had known, vaguely, that another successor state was taking shape and form, coreward of Corinthian. She’d always known the value of good intelligence and her officials had interviewed the crews of every freighter that had made landfall within her territory. But she had always assumed that she would contact them from a position of strength, not weakness … not when weakness would invite attack. She knew that better than any of her former superiors, none of whom had realised the true scale of the looming disaster. And yet there was no choice.

She looked up from the screen as Wolfbane came into view, her ragtag fleet escorted by a handful of battleships. They weren’t – quite – pointing their weapons at her ships, but she knew it would be a matter of seconds between the decision to open fire and the ships actually firing on her. She’d come to Wolfbane, after sending a message through the captured ship’s crew, knowing that it could easily be a trap. But there was still no choice.

I do have cards to play, she thought, although she had no idea if they would be sufficient to win her a place on Wolfbane. I have ships – and I have intelligence. And I have a few tools I dare not share …

She gritted her teeth as the fleet finally entered high orbit. Wolfbane had been the most successful world in its sector, hence the Sector Government’s decision to base itself there. It was surrounded by orbital weapons platforms, industrial nodes and starships – hundreds of starships. The general economic decline that had presaged the Fall of the Empire, it seemed, no longer cast a shadow over the Wolfbane Sector. She couldn’t help feeling a flicker of envy – even her work on Corinthian hadn’t produced so much activity – which she thrust aside ruthlessly. There was no time to waste on self-recrimination.

Her wristcom buzzed. “Admiral,” Carolyn said, “the shuttle from Wolfbane is making its final approach.”

Rani nodded. Her aide was loyal – but she had no choice. Rani’s security officers had seen to that, conditioning Carolyn until she couldn’t even conceive of betraying her mistress. But the price for such conditioning was a reduction in the woman’s intelligence and ability to act without specific orders. Rani was all too aware of the weaknesses in the system, but she dared not take the risk of having her aide unconditioned. It would be far too dangerous.

“Understood,” she said. “I’m on my way.”

She straightened up and studied herself in the mirror. Long dark hair framed an oddly fragile face, her dark skin and darker eyes giving her a winsome appearance that belied her inner strength. Her dress uniform was perfectly tailored to her slender form, tight in all the right places. It should have been no surprise when her former superiors had tried to seduce her, she admitted bitterly. The recruiting officers had never mentioned that aspect of the military when they’d convinced her to join up. Nor had it been a problem, she had to admit, until she’d graduated from the Imperial Academy with the rank of Lieutenant.

Absently, she wondered what Governor Brown would make of her. There had been little in the files on him, including a note that he had strong ties to a dozen corporations that presumably no longer existed. That suggested flexibility, Rani knew. It was rare for an official to be beholden to more than one set of masters. But Brown had clearly managed it long enough to reach the post of Sector Governor. His word would have been law in the sector long before the Empire collapsed.

I’ll seduce him if I have to, she told herself. It was a bitter thought, one she resented after everything she’d done to avoid trading sex for favours, but she was damned if she was not using all the tools in her arsenal to claw her way back to power. And I will have my revenge.

Chapter One

If you start by reviewing a generalised (and highly sanitised) history of the three thousand years of the Empire’s existence, you could be forgiven for thinking that between the Unification Wars and the End of Empire there was no war. Certainly, no major conflict threatened the existence of the Empire. But was there peace?

Professor Leo Caesius. War in a time of ‘Peace:’ The Empire’s Forgotten Military History.

Darkness wrapped the landscape in shadow, unbroken by the merest hint of mankind’s technology. The moon had yet to rise, leaving the stars as the only source of light. Pete Rzeminski sat on the edge of the clearing, looking up at the stars and waited, patiently, for his contacts to arrive. The darkness – and the sound of nocturnal wild animals coming to life now the sun was gone – didn’t bother him. He’d been in far worse spots when he’d been on active duty. But that had been a long time ago.

Pete wondered, absently, what his Drill Instructors would make of him now. Would they understand, he asked himself, or would they condemn him for making his choice? Once, he’d sworn an oath to the Empire that had defined his life and his service. It had once meant everything to him, even after he’d quit in disgust and retreated to Thule, where his family lived. But now the Empire was gone. What was the point, he asked himself, of swearing to something that no longer existed?

And yet, it had taken him years to take sides. In the end, only the death of his wife and family had convinced him to take up arms.

He wrapped the thermal cloak around him tightly as the temperature continued to fall, pushing his recollections aside. The youngsters had complained when he’d insisted on meeting the outsiders alone – not all of them trusted him – but Pete had been insistent. He did have training they lacked, training in escaping pursuit and – if necessary – in resisting interrogation. There was still the very real possibility that the entire operation was a loyalist trap. If so, it would be foolish to risk more than one life to make contact.

They called him the old man, he knew. And he was old, by their standards, even if he was in excellent shape for a fifty year old man. His hair was slowly turning grey, but his body was still strong, the result of exercise and genetic treatments he’d undergone in the past. And his wife had never complained about his performance before she’d died …

Memories rose up unbidden as he forced himself to relax, mocking him. There had been the Slaughterhouse, where he’d first known true companionship, and then a series of endless bloody battles, each one only a symptom of the Empire’s steady decline. And then there had been the final bloody cataclysm … and his departure from the Terran Marine Corps. In the end, he knew, he’d failed. He hadn’t been able to stay in the Marines, knowing that they’d become the Empire’s bully boys, the people responsible for fixing problems the Grand Senate caused for itself.

He pushed the self-pity aside as his ears picked up faint sounds, blown on the wind. High overhead, something was descending towards the clearing. Pete tensed, one hand reaching for the pistol at his belt, as his enhanced eyes finally picked up the shuttle. Despite himself, he was impressed. Thule was hardly a stage-one colony world, utterly incapable of detecting a starship in orbit or a shuttle passing through its atmosphere. Their contacts had managed to slip through a detection system that was rather more elaborate than anything Thule really needed. But then, the government had attempted to spend its way out of the financial crisis by investing in the local defence industry. It was just a shame that the crisis had proven well beyond the planet’s ability to surmount.

The shuttle came to a hover over the clearing, then dropped down towards the ground. It was a boxy shape, coated in materials that absorbed or redirected sensor sweeps from both orbital and ground-based stations. The contacts had refused to discuss precisely how they intended to avoid the local defences, but Pete’s private guess was that they’d hidden the shuttle on one of the freighters in orbit. He’d taken a look at the listings and seen several dozen that could easily have carried the shuttle, hidden away in a cargo hold or even bolted to the hull. It wouldn’t be detected unless the inspection crew was very thorough.

Not that the government bothers to examine off-world ships unless they’re independent, he thought, feeling a twinge of bitterness. He hadn’t realised how closely he’d associated himself with Thule until after his extended family had been affected by the first political shockwaves sweeping across the planet. A system that had seemed logical – and a change from the Empire’s maddeningly hypocritical ideology – had shown its weaknesses as soon as the winds of change had begun. The Trade Federation would complain.

The shuttle touched down, a faint hissing sound reaching his ears as the warm hull touched damp grass. Pete hesitated, then stepped forward as the hatch opened. No light spilled out – it was impossible to be certain that an orbital satellite wasn’t looking for anything that stood out on the ground – but his eyes could pick out a figure standing in the hatch, carrying a rifle in both hands. The figure wore light body armour and goggles that enhanced his eyesight. A long moment passed, then the figure waved at Pete. Bracing himself, Pete walked up to the hatch.

“Alpha-Three-Preen,” he said.

“Beta-Four-Prime,” the contact replied. He stepped aside, inviting Pete into the shuttle. “And may I say what a relief it is to be dealing with professionals?”

Pete felt his lips quirk in silent amusement. The underground movements that had sprung up in the wake of the financial crisis – and mass unemployment, followed by disenfranchisement – had a cause, but no real experience. Most of their secret passwords and countersigns had come from books and entertainment programs, both of which sacrificed realism for drama. It had taken him years of effort to teach the youngsters about the virtues of the KISS principle. Maybe it lacked drama, but it was certainly one hell of a lot more effective.

Inside, the shuttle was dark, the interior illuminated only by the light from a single display monitoring the orbital situation. The hatch closed with a hiss, then the lights came on, revealing a handful of metal chairs and a single control stick. Pete felt a moment of nostalgia – it had been years since he’d ridden an infiltration shuttle down into hostile territory – which he pushed to one side. He couldn’t afford the distraction, not now.

“We have weapons for you, as per request,” the contact said. In the light, he was a bland young man, someone who could have passed unnoticed on any cosmopolitan world. Not too handsome and not too ugly. “And some intelligence as well.”

He paused, significantly. “You are aware, of course, that both the Commonwealth and the Trade Federation plan to expand their activities in this sector?”

Pete nodded. He’d heard rumours, some of them more reliable than others. Joining the Commonwealth had seemed the ticket to economic recovery, but the Commonwealth either couldn’t or wouldn’t buy most of the planet’s produce. He rather suspected the latter. The planetary development corporation – and then the elected government – had invested heavily in industrial production equipment, citing their belief that the sector would continue to grow and develop under the protection of the Empire. Now, Thule had more industrial production than she could use. Even throwing money into the planetary defences hadn’t solved the growing economic disaster.

“We would like to come to terms with you, after you take over the government,” the contact added. “Would that be acceptable to you?”

Pete kept his expression blank. No one did anything for nothing, not even the ivory tower intellectuals who’d provided the ideological base for the Empire’s growth, development and slow collapse. Long experience in the Marine Corps had taught him that anyone who supplied weapons to underground movements wanted something in return. Sometimes, it was cold hard cash, paid in advance, but at other times it was political influence or post-war alliances. He would have preferred to pay in advance, rather than have the terms left undetermined. But he knew the underground could not hope to purchase advanced weapons systems with cash in hand. The planet’s currency was almost definitely useless outside its star system.

“That would depend,” he said carefully, “on just what those terms were.”

The youngsters, he knew, would have been horrified at his attempt to sound out the contact. They would have protested, perhaps rightly, that the underground did not enjoy the luxury of being able to debate terms and conditions. Without advanced weapons systems, the underground could not hope to prevail. If worst came to worst, they’d argue, they could always launch another uprising against the contact’s backers. Pete’s caution would not bode well with them.

He smiled, a little sadly. Some of the underground might have made good Marines, once upon a time, while others were the kind of people the Marine Corps existed to defend. Now, they were forced to fight or accept permanent subordination …

The contact didn’t sound offended. “We would like your political neutrality,” he said. “If you do not wish to associate yourselves with us, you may avoid commitment, but you may not side with any other interstellar power.”

Pete looked at him for a long thoughtful moment. He knew that the contact represented an interstellar power – no one else would be able to produce the weapons they’d offered – but he didn’t know who. But the insistence on political neutrality suggested Wolfbane. There was no one else who had any interest in Thule remaining uninvolved. It was vaguely possible, he supposed, that the Trade Federation was covertly sabotaging the Commonwealth’s operations, but it seemed unlikely. If nothing else, the Trade Federation benefited hugely from the current state of affairs. Why would they want to upset the applecart?

They wouldn’t, he thought. Everything he knew about the Trade Federation backed up its assertion that it was not interested in political power, at least not to the extent of the Commonwealth or the vanished Empire. No, they were interested in interstellar trade and little else. They didn’t benefit by upending the situation on Thule.

“Very well,” he said, finally. “I cannot speak on behalf of every underground organisation, but my group will accept your terms.”

“Good,” the contact said. He turned to the collection of metal boxes at the rear of the cabin. “Once we have unloaded these, I will depart and you can begin your war.”

Pete nodded. The youngsters couldn’t think in the long term, but he could … and he couldn’t help wondering if he’d just sold his soul along with the planet itself. But they had no alternative, no choice if they truly wanted to overthrow the government and create a new order. They needed outside support.

“Thank you,” he said.

***

First Speaker Daniel Krautman, elected Head of State only weeks prior to the first financial shockwaves that had devastated the planet’s economy, looked out of the Speaker’s Mansion and down towards the empty streets. Once, they had been bustling with life at all hours, a reflection of the economic success the planet had enjoyed under his predecessors. Now, they were empty, save for passing military and police patrols. The city was under martial law and had been so for months. Even the camps of unemployed workers and students who had been evicted from their homes were quiet.

He shook his head in bitter disbelief, wondering – again – just what he had done to deserve such turmoil on his watch. He’d told himself that running for First Speaker would be a chance to ensure that his name went down in the planet’s history, despite his comparative youth. He’d told himself that he would serve the fixed ten-year term, the economic boom would continue and he would retire to take up a place on a corporate board or simply write his memoirs. Instead, the bottom had dropped out of the economy only weeks after his election and nothing, no matter what he did, seemed to fix the problem.

Gritting his teeth, he swore under his breath as he caught sight of his reflection. He’d been middle-aged when he’d been elected, with black hair and a smile that charmed the lady voters – or so he’d been assured, by his focus groups. Now, he was almost an old man. His hair had turned white, his face was deathly pale and he walked like a cripple. The doctors swore blind that the constant pains in his chest were nothing more than the results of stress and there was nothing they could do, but he had his suspicions. There were political and corporate figures demanding a harsher response to the crisis and some of them might just have bribed the doctors to make his life miserable.

Or maybe he was just being paranoid, he told himself as he turned away from the window. He was lucky, compared to the men and women in the homeless camps, building what shelter they could from cardboard boxes and blankets supplied by charities. There, life was miserable and short; men struggled desperately to find a job while women sold themselves on street corners, trading sex for the food and warmth they needed to survive another few days. And the children … Daniel couldn’t help shuddering at the thought of children in the camps, even though there was nothing he could do. Anything he might have tried would have been ruthlessly blocked by the conservative factions in the Senate.

But they might be right, he thought, numbly. The founders set out to avoid creating a dependent society, like Earth.

He shook his head, angrily. What good did it do to tell the unemployed to go get a job when there were no jobs to be had? What good did it do to insist that the government should create jobs when there was no money to pay the additional workers? What good did it to do to cling to the letter of the constitution when a crisis was upon them that had never been anticipated by the founders? But the hawks were adamantly opposed to any changes while the doves couldn’t agree on how to proceed. And he was caught in the middle.

Daniel stepped over to his desk and looked down at the report his secretary had placed there before going to bed. It seemed that the only growth industry, even after contact with the Commonwealth and the Trade Federation, was government bureaucracy, as bureaucrats struggled to prove they were actually necessary. The report told him, in exhaustive detail, just how many men, women and children had been arrested at the most recent protest march, the one that had turned into yet another riot. Daniel glanced at the executive summary, then picked up the sheaf of papers and threw it across the room and into the fire. Maybe he should have offered it to the homeless, he told himself, a moment too late. They could have burnt the papers for heat.

There was a tap on the door. Daniel keyed a switch, opening it.

“First Speaker,” General Erwin Adalbert said. “I apologise for disturbing you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Daniel said. He trusted the General, insofar as he trusted anyone these days. There were times when he suspected the only thing preventing a military coup was the simple fact that the military would have to solve the crisis itself. “What can I do for you?”

“We received an intelligence package from one of our agents in the underground,” Adalbert said. “I’m afraid our worst nightmare has come to pass.”

Daniel smiled, humourlessly. Protest marches, even riots, weren’t a major problem. The various underground groups spent more time fighting each other and arguing over the plans to repair the economy – or nationalise it, or send everyone to the farms – than they did plotting to overthrow the government. His real nightmare was the underground groups burying their differences and uniting against him.

“They’ve definitely received some help from off-world,” Adalbert continued. “There have been several weapons shipments already and more are apparently on the way.”

“Oh,” Daniel said. “Who from?”

“Intelligence believes that there is only one real suspect,” Adalbert admitted. “Wolfbane.”

Daniel couldn’t disagree. The Commonwealth had nothing to gain and a great deal to lose by empowering underground movements intent on overthrowing the local government and reshaping the face of politics on Thule. Wolfbane, on the other hand, might well see advantage in trying to covertly knock Thule out of the Commonwealth. Given that the closest Wolfbane-controlled world was only nine light years away, they certainly had an interest … and probably the capability to do real damage.

“I see,” he said.

“We can expect the various underground groups to start working together now,” Adalbert added, softly. “Their suppliers will certainly insist on unity in exchange for weapons.”

He paused. “First Speaker, we need to ask for assistance.”

Daniel looked up, sharply. “Remind me,” he said coldly, “just how much of our budget is spent on the military?”

Adalbert had the grace to look embarrassed. “We spent most of the money on upgrading and expanding our orbital defences,” he said. “It provided more jobs than expanding troop numbers on the ground. We can expand our recruiting efforts, but we’re already having problems training our current intake …”

“And we don’t know how far we can trust the new recruits,” Daniel finished.

“Yes, sir,” Adalbert said. “And most of our new recruits are trained for policing duties, not all-out war. But that’s what the underground is going to give us.”

Daniel stared down at his desk. He’d wanted to go down in history, but not like this, not as the First Speaker who had invited outsiders to intervene in his planet’s civil unrest. The Senate would crucify him, safe in the knowledge that they didn’t have to deal with the situation. They’d voted him emergency powers, enough to call for assistance, but not enough to actually come to grips with the situation.

Damn them, he thought.

“Summon the Commonwealth representative,” he said, finally. He honestly wasn’t sure if the Commonwealth could legally help Thule. This was an internal problem, not an external threat. But there was no choice. “We will ask for help.”

The Learning Experience Universe

17 Jan

Background for yet another story.

As a general rule, interstellar travel was originally only possible through gravity points – locations where, with the proper technology, a starship could transit instantly from one star system to another. (Not unlike the Starfire universe.) Only a handful of races managed the lucky combination of being born in a star system with a gravity point and managing to master the technology. Those that did rapidly expanded down chains of gravity points, establishing long gangly political units that often overwhelmed races that failed to develop gravity point technology,

Everything changed roughly 4000 years prior to humanity’s first contact, when the Tokomak – an alien race originally heralding thousands of light years from Earth – developed the gravimetric FTL drive. The drive worked by creating a series of mini-transits that, outside a star’s gravity well, allowed a limited form of FTL travel. Although very slow at first (original versions of the drive took weeks to cross a single light year) rapid improvements gave the aliens a chance to escape the tyranny of the gravity point network. In addition, where prior use of the gravity point network identified the network to an intelligence spacefaring race native to the newly-discovered star system, the drive was easy to protect from capture and duplication. The result was largely inevitable. Within 1000 years of the drive’s development, the Tokomak had colonised or conquered a sizable empire.

The Tokomak tended to divide races into tiers, depending on their development at the time of conquest. Tier One (gravity-point capable) were generally treated reasonably well, although incorporated into the united empire. Tier Two (spacefaring, but not interstellar) were generally used as techs or servitors. Tier Three (non-spacefaring) were used as slaves, when they were used at all. It wasn’t uncommon for the Tokomak to occupy their world and displace the locals, when they were interested in taking their planet for themselves.

Although the gravity drive ensured they no longer needed to rely on gravity points, the economics of interstellar travel continued to dictate that stars with gravity points (particularly multiple points) remained economically important. Indeed, though interstellar charts showed vast regions of space belonging to the Tokomak, it would be more practical to say they ruled the gravity points and star systems surrounding them, but vast reaches of space, particularly on the edge of their empire, remained largely unexplored, let alone integrated into the empire. One such star system gave birth to Earth.

***

Humans called the Tokomak Government a Government of Old Men. That is reasonably accurate; their society places great stock on older people (who are clearly blessed by the gods) and anyone over the age of 50 can expect to be part of the decision-making system. (Among other things, promotion is by time in grade, rather than merit or patronage.)

Non-Tokomak are not allowed to hold any kind of governmental office in the empire. It isn’t uncommon, however, for alien families to build up influence behind the scenes.

***

Earth was discovered by the Tokomak in 1200AD. As Sol lacked any gravity points, the Tokomak were largely uninterested in the human race and (after making a few cursory scans and abducting a number of humans for dissection) abandoned the system. However, several other races – particularly primitive races who had bought or stolen starships from the Tokomak – were interested. One of them abducted large numbers of humans during the 15th century and used them as soldiers on various border worlds. They proved remarkably successful, which eventually attracted the interests of other aliens, who dispatched capture missions of their own.

One such mission, in 2020, ended disastrously when their abductees, a number of American ex-military personnel, successfully captured the alien starship, along with its technology. (To be fair, the race crewing the starship was largely regarded as little more than scavengers by the other Galactics.) Being somewhat isolated from the mainstream of American society at the time (and fearing what would happen if Galactic technology was handed over to Earth without some careful forethought) the former abductees recruited family and friends, then eventually laid claim to Luna and founded the Solar Union. A steady dribble of Galactic-level technology was fed down to Earth, eventually helping to terminate the War on Terror and start an expansion into interplanetary space.

Humanity proved to have several advantages the scavengers lacked. They not only had a grasp of the basics of science – which allowed the mysteries of Galactic technology to be steadily unlocked – they also had an inventive frame of mind that allowed the Solar Union’s growing population to improve upon such technology. By the time the scavengers returned to Sol, the Solar Union was more than ready for them. Human colonies were scattered over the Solar System, while two interstellar colonies were rapidly established.

By the time the Tokomak realised that they had a growing problem and moved to deal with it, the human race was already quite some distance ahead of their technology (even the tech they’d never sold to anyone else.) The small squadron of starships they sent to punish the upstart human race were rapidly and completely destroyed. When word spread up the network of gravity points to their capital, their ruling powers refused to believe it until successive reports of two further military disasters followed rapidly. Eventually, faced with the prospect of revolt across their empire, they came to terms with humanity. Human independence was acknowledged, human traders were permitted to enter the empire at will and human slaves (descendents of those taken from Earth) would be repatriated. Not all of them, to be fair, wanted to go back to a home they’d never seen.

***

Politically, the Solar Union is a libertarian democracy composed of a number of planets, settled asteroids and colossal starships. (By the terms of the Solar Treaty, established when the Solar Union’s existence was revealed on Earth, the Solar Union asserts no power on Earth’s surface and governments on Earth are not part of the Union.) As long as each state accepts and upholds the Solar Constitution and Bill of Rights, they are permitted to remain within the Union.

Originally, the Solar Union saw itself as an individualist society. There would be no attempt to integrate vast numbers of people or entire nation-states. Given the boundless depths of interstellar space, there was infinite room for anyone who wanted to join – or even set up a homestead of their own. Later, as humans settled planets (and large human populations were discovered under alien control), the system evolved towards accepting entire settlements (as long as they followed the basic rules.)

(There are a number of different forms of government, ranging from direct democracy to religious or corporate states. As one of the key provisions of the Bill of Rights is that anyone who wants to leave can do so, even the most ‘conservative’ states are careful about not pressing their population too hard.)

Fleet – formally the Solar Navy – is charged with defending humanity and human-controlled star systems. The Solar Marine Corps provides ground support if necessary. (The Solar Treaty bans the Solar Union from raising more than 10’000 Marines, with the assumption that further troops would be supplied from Earth if necessary.)

The wars against the scavenger races brought a surprising number of aliens into humanity’s fold. While many wanted to remain on their homeworlds and escape further Tokomak (and other) interference in their affairs, others applied to join the Solar Union.

Rewriting The Empire’s Corps (Book One)

17 Jan

Hi, everyone.

For the past few months, I’ve been having my original version of The Empire’s Corps conceptually and copy-edited by a professional editor. This has been a long slow process for various reasons, but it’s finally started to roll properly and it is becoming increasingly apparent that I will need to rewrite the entire book, rather than intensely editing the version I have.

There are two reasons for this. First, there are simply too many edits and changes that need to be made. Placing them all into the document I already have would be extremely difficult and would probably result in major problems down the line. Second … I like to think I’ve improved a little since then. The Empire’s Corps was written in 2010; No Worse Enemy, Book Two in the series, was written in 2012, after Book One took off on Kindle.

So … once the copy-edit is completed, which will allow me to see the problems with the original manuscript, I will start rewriting the book.

What I’d like from my readers, if you have time, is to let me know what areas you think need to be improved or expanded upon in the rewrite. Anything that needs modified in light of later books, anything that should be toned down … all advice and suggestions welcome.

Thank you

Chris