The Past is Prologue

9 Sep

As my new book is coming out on Sunday, it’s time to pimp it out! (“Pimp My Book” – next reality TV smash?) So today, enjoy the prologue of Defending Our Sacred Honor, which will be available on Kindle and Print-on-Demand paperback September 13th!


Blood sprayed onto his helmet when his shipmate was ripped apart by a shredded bulkhead. Where the hell did the Rebs get this much firepower? he wondered, quickly shifting the life support away from non-functioning decks. The old-fashioned push buttons–the same ones he’d been complaining about for years–suddenly didn’t seem as obsolete with sparks and bodily fluids dancing in the fluctuating gravity.

“Jax!” The captain called out, gripping her chair in a death grip. Her face was outwardly calm, but the rest of her body told him she was just as terrified as him. “What did we lose?”

“Boat Bay, Third Habitat Ring, and Water Reclamation, ma’am,” Specialist Second Class Javier “Jax” Jackson answered without checking the status board. “Sealed them off.”

“Guess we won’t be having showers for a while,” the captain gave a wan grin. “Polly, have we managed to hit them at all?”

The assistant weapons officer—the primary was down in sick bay after getting his leg crushed—checked his sensor readout. “They’re streaming atmosphere, ma’am, but they keep firing.”

“Nothing but freighters, Intel said,” the captain said. A shudder went through the ship as a nuke got a little too close to the hull. “Seems like someone added some firepower. Do we have anything to stop them?”

“We’re out of missiles, ma’am,” Polly answered, “but shells are working just fine. I got Manny trying to rig the com laser to fuck up their sensors, but they’re dancing out there. Getting a solid hit seems nigh impossible.”

“If you don’t mind floating in zero gee, you can maneuver all you want,” the navigation officer piped up.

“Nothing’s impossible, Betty,” Captain Jenny Fullerstein smiled, “so why don’t we do the same?”

“Spin’s not gonna slow us down, ma’am,” Jax answered. “We’re not a thrust-only ship. Besides, we stopped pushing the spin when they opened fire.”

“I need options,” the captain demanded.

“We’re almost out of shells,” the weapons officer explained, “but then again, so are they. I swear they’re shooting trash barrels at us every other shot.”

“Trash barrels?” Jax asked.

“When it’s flying at several thousand feet a second,” Polly replied, “an apple peel can rip you to shreds.”

“If Manny’s laser works, it’s gonna dazzle them,” the navigation officer—Lieutenant Beatrix—explained, “but I don’t think they’re gonna stand down because they can’t see us.”

“And we’re running out of hard weaponry,” the captain admitted. The fact that they had double the normal load of nuclear weapons was in violation of several Space Force regulations… but those were written before the Confed declared war. “Polly, can you tag them before we run out of shells?”

“If I’m lucky,” the assistant weapons officer admitted sheepishly.

“Then hold fire,” Captain Fullerstein ordered as Third Lieutenant Herb “Polly” de Paulo cancelled the load cycle. “What’s it gonna take to get a hit?”

“A lot closer, ma’am.”

“We could probably use the grapples at the range you’re talking.” Jax scoffed.

The captain gave a small smirk. “Then we’d definitely get a hit, wouldn’t we? Betty, move us danger close.”

“But that’ll…” Beatrix started to object.

“If we’re out of shells, so are they. I want to read the serial numbers on their maintenance covers before we launch our next nuke. Understood?”

The senior lieutenant gulped and nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
CSS Community of Harmonious States hit the thrusters and bolted towards its opponent. A couple more shots came their way, but no one charting the projectile trajectories on the converted freighter would have imagined the drastic change in course. On the bridge, the spin section soon found all its gravity shifted to the left side of the ship, and only the safety harnesses on their chairs kept them at their stations.

“Time to intercept?” Captain Fullerstein asked.

“Five minutes,” Beatrix replied, “assuming they don’t break off.”

“Oh, they’re not breaking off,” the captain smiled evilly, “not unless they want a nuke in their ion drive. Polly, I want you ready to fry their ass when I give the word.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Herb nodded, sweating profusely in his helmet as he constantly updated the calculations.

A flashing light came on Jax’s screen. He hit the report button and announced. “Engineering reports strain in the fuel containment. Estimate auto-shutdown in ten minutes.”

“We don’t need ten minutes,” the captain shrugged. “How’s it looking, Polly?”

“I only got three shots.”

“Probability?”

“Their erratic maneuvers means I’m lucky if I make a near hit at range. Standard spacer radiation shields make nukes useless unless you can actually rattle their hulls loose.”

“I need the odds, lieutenant,” Captain Fullerstein reminded him, “before we overfly them and give them a shot up our ass.”

Herb hit a few more buttons on his screen. “The computers say we’ve got a one in three chance in one minute, 50/50 in two minutes.”

“Three shells, three chances,” their commanding officer chuckled, “perfect symmetry. Plan your attack for one minute.”

Jax tried to focus on the ops screen—the specialist knew he wasn’t even supposed to be on the bridge. He was repairing a loose power converter when all hell broke loose and the freighter jumped them. Lord knew where the ops officer was, if she was even alive, but luckily they all had their suits on them since they catapulted in system.

The seconds passed by—even Polly’s mad calculating had stopped—as they waited for the inevitable shot. Ten seconds before launch, Beatrix announced, “Target’s changing course.”

“Where?”

“Turning right towards us!”

The captain looked at de Paulo and said, “Hit ‘em!”

Herb slammed his firing key and their last three shells blasted out of the ports five seconds early. The freighter had predicted their plan and tried to narrow its target profile; but de Paulo had them locked up with his guns for the past minute. Anticipating their next erratic shift, he planted one nuke ahead, one on top, and one below them. The turn completely threw off the forward nuke, but it slowed the ship enough that the freighter was sandwiched between the two remaining shells. The first shell rattled the ship enough to weaken it, but the second finished the job.

Within seconds, the target was nothing but scrap metal.

An audible sigh escaped from everyone’s mouths. After an unexpected moment of silence, Fullerstein said, “All right, Betty, cancel the thrust, and get the spin working again. I’m starting to fly off this seat. Lollipop?”

“Dead,” Jax reminded her, looking at the remaining torso of the communications officer.

The captain paused—the shock was quickly replaced by her duty—and it was only a moment before she replied. “Jax, see if our comm console is still working. If so, send a message to the planet. We demand their surrender before we reach orbit or we’re nuking their settlements.”

“But ma’am,” de Paulo said, “we don’t have any nukes left.”

“Yeah, but they don’t know that,” Fullerstein laughed. “Let’s finish this and go home. I’ve had enough war to last my lifetime. Pity it wasn’t that long for others.”

Community returned to Earth orbit a month later. As they braked in from the catapult point, Space Force sent them the awful news; half the ships sent out to handle the insurgency were lost, presumed destroyed. Since the declaration, more colony worlds had seceded from the Terran Confederation and most of their personnel had either died in combat, or worse yet, resigned their commissions and joined to fight with the rebels. Once the model of orbital perfection, Earth was now a mess. Every dock was full with new construction; stable orbital paths and La Grange points were all jammed solid. The Confederate Senate had imposed a massive new tax on all its member states to pay for the war effort. Of course, that was in violation of the Articles, but so was seceding from the union. Space Force found itself rewriting the regulations as they were suddenly shifting for a war footing they weren’t built for. But even with all the new ships that would soon come online, after Space Force’s disastrous first campaign, there were few soldiers left to fight it.

Specialist Jackson’s own ship was directed to a stable orbit, the hole in space was carved out by a rapidly departing freighter. Even though Community’s damage demanded a dock, there were no docks to be found. Tugs were intercepting to keep her in place until a dock could be found.

“Incoming message from the CNC,” Jax said, now the de facto communications officer on Community, ever since Lollipop lost her head.

“Put it up, Jax,” the captain nodded.

The holoproj appeared and a smaller version of the man with too much gold braid appeared on their ship. “Captain Third Class Fullerstein?”

“Yes, sir. As I reported once we jumped in system, the rebellion on Teegarden…”

“Thank you, captain, I did receive your report,” the commander-in-chief cut her off. “Did you receive mine?”

She nodded. “I was sorry to hear the news. We lost a lot of good people, sir.”

“That, Jenny, is the understatement of the century. So much for the object lesson.” He quoted the propaganda phrase that senators had been bandying about when they left the fight. “When we received the first news back—from the Rebels, no less—that’s when the Senate kicked into gear and started the construction boom you can see up there.”

“I see. But if we need ships, surely a dock can be opened up for Community…”

“No, Jenny,” the CNC abandoned all formality, “maybe you didn’t read the report as well as I thought. We might need ships, but we’re all out of qualified men and women to fly them. I’ve ordered shuttles directed to Community. They will ferry off your personnel to Unity for debriefing and reassignment.”

Reassignment, Jax went pale at the words, that’s the worse news of all. After two years with this crew, I can’t believe I’m losing them.

“But what about Community?”

“The Association-class corvettes are being retired.”

“What?!”

“Don’t look at me like that, Jenny,” the CNC moaned. “Ships like Community are just science platforms with defensive systems. We don’t need science vessels—we need warships.”

“Then what happens to…”

“We do need the battle steel. Community will be scrapped and the materials used to build new construction. And before I hear you whine about it, Jenny, I’m doing that to all of our cur… surviving vessels.”

“Where will my crew be reassigned?”

The CNC sighed. “That’s why I’m calling you myself, captain. I need to spread out your experienced personnel across the new fleet. Hopefully, they’ll leaven the rest of the new recruits we’ve got coming in.”
Fullerstein blinked. “So… they’re no longer my crew.”

“I’m sorry, Jenny. You’ll need to clear your possessions from the ship and take it with you on the arriving shuttles. You’ll each get your marching orders when you get to Unity. I’m sorry it had to be this way, but I need you—all of you—now. We can’t win this war without you. Do you understand?”

“I don’t like it, sir, but I’ll obey.” Despite the fact that (until recently) the Space Force was a primarily exploration and scientific unit, it was still a military organization. When command said jump, you asked how high.

“Good girl,” the CNC nodded. From anyone else, that comment would have been insulting, but the youthful-looking commander-in-chief of Space Force was old enough to be the captain’s grandfather. Near immortality had led to some strange social mores on Earth, and a lot more colonists wanting to get away from the homeworld because of it.

“I’m sending the formal orders on a separate circuit on this comm line. Please thank your crew for their dedication… and victory.”

“If I know them, sir, they’re already watching you on a hacked circuit.”
The CNC gave a wan smile. “The shuttles will be there in an hour. Discom.”

“You heard the Old Man. Start packing your bags,” Jenny said, and with her eyes tearing up, she said, “don’t leave anything behind you want to keep. And… most importantly, I’ll miss you.”

Jackson crammed into one of the waiting shuttles and took the fifteen minute ride to Confederate Space Station Unity of the World. Through the random perversity of the universe, all of his close friends were split off into different shuttles, and he was stuck next to Lieutenant de Paulo. He really didn’t know the officer socially—most of them lived in a different world than the enlisted—but in a crew compliment of fifty, the specialist knew everyone personally. “Guess we’re traveling together, sir.”

“Hey, Jax,” the weapons officer smiled, “did you get any hint on where we’re going?”

“No time,” the specialist shrugged. “Guess we’ll find out when we hit Unity.”

“Wonder what we’ll get. What ship, I mean.”

“Knowing you, Polly, they’ll put you as captain of a freighter.”

“Very funny.”

“Hey, you know important supply ships will be!” Jax gave him a wide smile. Herb de Paulo had big ambitions and little experience. How he managed to get past Vice-Lieutenant is one of the great mysteries of the universe, Jax thought.

“Well, when I get that freighter, I’ll make sure to ask for you as my laundry officer.”

“It would be a good career move,” the specialist rolled with the joke, holding up his lapel. “Have you seen whiter whites?”

De Paulo smiled back. “Eh, I’ve seen better. Remember when we served on Bright April and Sergeant Iyer kept demanding a spotless uniform?”

“Who do you think programmed in the extra bleach, Polly?”

“I thought that was you! Everyone thought it was MacNamara.”

“But the sarge never said a word,” Jackson shook his head, “he kept wearing that star-white outfit for the rest of the tour.”

The lieutenant chuckled. “He was an amazing ball-buster.”

“I hope he made it.”

“Iyer? Trust me, if he ran into the Rebs, pray for the Rebs.”

“At least his uniform would survive a supernova.”

The shuttle started its final braking towards the station. The weapons officer sighed and held out his hand. “It was good knowing you, Jax. When I see you again, you’ll probably make Major.”

He shook his hand. “Not without another eight years of college, Polly.”

“This is war, Jax,” de Paulo shrugged, “anything can happen.”

Once they docked and everyone filed out of the shuttle, the shore patrol flunkies were there in force. Before he could say goodbye to everyone else on the shuttle, he was shoved and pointed down a corridor, just like everyone else. With regret, he followed the hallway and kept walking. It didn’t take long before the specialist soon found himself at a desk, manned by a bored little private second class, who seemed upset that he was taken away from whatever game he was playing on his console.

“Name, sir?”

“Specialist Jackson, serial number 27 Alpha Omicron…”

“That’s enough, sir,” the private intoned, “I have your file right here.”

The clerk took a moment to read the file and shrugged. “You’re promoted to Vice-Sergeant and need to report to the CSS Our Sacred Honor as soon as physically possible.”

Jax just stood there at the clerk’s desk, stunned. Within the hour, he had just lost his crew mates, the next he knew, he had been jumped up four full ranks! It took him twenty years to reach Specialist, and he only took the technical rank after he realized that it would take another ten years before he could even hope for Vice-Corporal, and finally become a non-commissioned officer. Now with the stroke of a stylus, he was suddenly one of the Lords after God… on a brand-new spaceship!

“Do you need a printout of your orders, sir?” the private asked when the newly minted sergeant hadn’t moved.

“No,” Jackson tentatively said, “but, uh… what dock is Our Sacred Honor at?”

“The Our Sac…”

“It’s not the Our Sacred Honor, private,” Jax corrected, “it’s a ship. That means you treat her as a lady, not a thing.”

A confused look came across the clerk’s face. “If you say so, sir.”

The new sergeant became annoyed. “How long have you been in the Space Force, Private?”

“Two weeks, sir.”

“And you’re already second class?!” Jax turned red in anger crossed with astonishment; it took him three years to earn the second thin chevron.

The clerk cringed a little before the veteran. “Things have changed since you went out, sir.”

“Sergeant,” Jackson shook his head in disbelief, “not sir. I work for a living. Now… tell me where to find Our Sacred Honor.”


Do you like it? Do you hate it? Tell me in the comments below! Are you interested in reading more? Click on the link to pre-order!

One Response to “The Past is Prologue”

  1. Jordan Hoggard September 9, 2020 at 9:47 am #

    Congratulations!

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