I have just finalised Resilience - Book 6 of Warner's World and plan to submit the final version to Amazon later today. So we should be good for the scheduled release on 26 August. I spent the last week going through the book again with an eye to the character development. I am really pleased with it. By way of introduction, here are the first ten pages.
Call to Arms
When the firing stops and the screams subside
Fear once more retreats inside
Frazzled nerves recover and tired minds assess
The outcome of the battle and whether it was success
But either way comrades have died or suffered
Lives lost and aspirations smothered
Where to from here
Do you retreat from fear?
Or regird your loins and sally forth
Striving to the next objective with all your worth
Chapter 1. Resolute over Q2, 2340, 6 September 2513
First Lieutenant (1st Lt) Crystal Wong had drunk far too much earlier in the evening at the so called celebrations. But her one-on-one with her boss, Captain (Capt) Dave Warner, and her subsequent bout of introspection and grief had somehow sobered her up.
Yes, the day had ended with victory over the Third Rogan Imperial Fleet (3rd RIF). Yes, they had avenged the destruction of large portions of Rollinium, the principal city of the second planet within the doomed Qwantum system. But it had failed to leave a sweet taste in Crystal’s mouth.
Now as she lay on the bed in her cabin she bit her lower lip. Her long, normally sleek black hair splayed out higgledy piggledy due to her fingers tearing at it. She could not sleep, even though she was dog tired. The last 48 hours had been a rollercoaster ride of emotion and stress. It had begun with anxiety over her lover’s safety. She could see 2nd Lt John Conrad’s face right now in her mind’s eye. He was grinning at her just as he had done so many times before.
But now each time she saw that grin she felt a huge pang of guilt. He was dead and it was down to her. She had chickened out when Dave had asked her to volunteer to man the battle systems control in Rollinium. John had shamed her when he volunteered instead. Now he was dead and she was alive. She hated herself for this.
“Why!” she called out in anguish. She rolled over onto her stomach and pulled the pillow over her head in an attempt to block out the thoughts and the pain. But they came from within and so there was no relief to be gained from this outward, physical activity. “Why?” she asked again but with less force. No sound escaped from the pillow but still the words penetrated deep inside.
The tears flowed, soaking into the sheets. She sobbed hard but eventually the outpouring petered out. She recalled Dave’s words ‘You are worthy. John knew that, didn’t he?’ And this started her crying again, just as it had earlier.
‘Am I? Why am I worthy?’ she implored silently to herself. She rolled onto her back. ‘What does he see in me that I don’t?’ she asked herself.
Capt Dave Warner, commander of the Federation’s 17th Flotilla and the Federation Fleet Ship (FFS) Resolute, also lay on his cabin bed, a minute’s walk away. He was a little over average height but his feet weren’t even close to the bottom of the huge bed that dominated his spacious cabin. His hair too was ruffled. It needed a cut, especially since the first few grey hairs were now starting to fleck at his temples. He brushed back the hair with his fingers, revealing a furrowed brow.
He too was reflecting on the state of things following the battle. He too was feeling guilty, especially about John’s death. But his guilt was not borne of some perceived personal shortcoming. Rather it was the product of what some may perceive as a personal strength and that was his sense of duty. It was his sense of duty that caused him to order the deployment of the battle systems centre to Rollinium and it was his order that put John in harm’s way and for that he felt guilty. But he knew he had done it for the right reasons. He knew that he may feel guilty but he was not culpable.
‘Why is that argument wearing thin?’ he asked himself. The long procession of deaths, occasioned by his orders, was taking its toll on his psyche and he knew it. For nigh on two years now men and women that he cared for and those he had barely come to know had either died or been maimed implementing his orders.
He thought of 2nd Lt Kat Holbrook in her neck brace as she boarded the hospital ship and the distraught state her lover, Lieutenant Commander (LCmd) Chase Hanlon, was in. ‘At least she’s out of it now’ he said to himself. But he knew it was unlikely she would ever fly again. ‘How many under my charge are now incapacitated and robbed of being able to lead a life to the full?’ he asked. ‘How many more yet to come?’
‘Stop it Dave’ he remonstrated with himself. ‘It’s just commander’s guilt and it’s going to get a lot worse before this war is over. You have to come to terms. One hundred percent commitment, zero percent attachment.’
He swept the bed next to him with his hand searching for his beloved Rihan. He came up empty. ‘But she is coming to me’ he reminded himself. ‘How I long for you my love.’
He rolled over onto his side and closed his eyes. ‘Yes, detachment’s the key’ he said to himself. ‘Detachment’s the key’ he repeated till he fell asleep.
Chapter 2. Kiev in warp to Q2 1200, 6 September
Twelve hours earlier, when the Resolute was burying its dead, Admiral (Adm) Phil Yomoto had sat at his desk aboard the Federation Fleet Ship (FFS) Kiev. He commanded the Federation Combined Fleet comprising two carriers, seventeen capital ships and 22 frigates plus a convoy of transports and a huge base force, that provided mobile logistic support.
He was a big barrel-chested fellow carrying a few extra pounds these days. The stress of command had taken its toll and his middle aged body wasn’t coping as well as it used to. The beer that he found comfort in didn’t help.
He was reading a message while trying to consume a sandwich at his desk. The message had been sent nearly a week ago. That was how long it had taken to reach him and it would take him even longer to warp to his current objective in the Qwantum system.
His main force was made up of second generation ships. They lacked the new drive and comms tech that enabled the third generation ships in his advance group, the 17th Flotilla under Dave Warner, to travel the huge distances from Chelora to Qwantum in just ten days. He was only five days in a twenty six day warp. Thankfully his flagship had the new comms suite which enabled him to communicate in warp. But right now Phil was feeling that perhaps ignorance would have given him more bliss.
The sender was Evie Plentun, a young rogan resistance leader who had made contact with the human Federation seeking assistance. Phil had helped her get to the rogan home world of Cheklin where she had made contact with the rogan resistance leader there, Meelanda Orocash. It was at their request that Phil’s combined fleet was now warping into rogan space.
When he got to the part of her message about subordinating his fleet to a rogan admiral he had to exercise all his discipline not to spit out the sandwich he currently had in his mouth. He swallowed it without relish. “For crying out loud!” he exclaimed.
Commodore (Cdre) Alex Peabody, his Chief of Staff (COS), was in the adjacent office. He heard his boss and came in with a wary look on his face. Phil displayed the message on the wall screen and Alex read it. Alex sat down and, as was his practice in dealing with these moods of his boss, he said nothing.
Alex’s sandy hair was losing the battle against the ever encroaching grey strands. But unlike his boss Alex kept himself in good shape with regular exercise.
“Of all the bloody ingrates” said Phil, still fuming. He looked to Alex hoping for some empathy but got none. “You think I’m a tad over reacting?” asked Phil but the tone of annoyance was still there. Alex rolled his shoulders and opened his palms out in a gesture Phil interpreted as a ‘yes’.
Finally Alex piped up “She makes a good point.”
“Which one?” blurted out Phil indignantly.
Alex didn’t rise to the occasion. Instead he forced himself to be calm. The long pause served to calm Phil down enough for Alex to respond. “If we want long term peace then we should comply. Otherwise she’s right. We will undermine the legitimacy of any new government and we’ll be back here again in ten years or less having to deal with another dictator.”
At this stage Capt Greta Oppenheim, Phil’s relatively new Communications and Intelligence (CI) officer came in and Alex pointed to the screen. She read it standing at ease, with her hands held behind her straight back. She was a mature woman but like Alex was in good shape. Her blond hair was cut relatively short.
Every now and then she glanced at Phil with her smokey blue eyes. Finally she stood up. She was about to say ‘And you don’t like it?’ but thought better of it. She opted instead for “Interesting.”
“And?” demanded Phil.
Greta looked to Alex for a lead. But before he could give one Phil added “Come on, I want your opinion. I’ve already got his.”
“It makes sense. What does it matter anyway?” she replied.
“Well it matters to me” retorted Phil.
Greta raised one eyebrow and gave him a disapproving look. “This is too big for bruised egos, don’t you think?”
Phil’s head recoiled back like he had just been slapped. But before he could respond Greta stared at him “That’s what’s at play here isn’t it?” Then she added “Thankfully we’re all mature and wise” and topped it off with a sweet smile.
Phil leaned back in his chair, for a moment before leaning forward. He raised a pointed finger at Greta and said “Oh you’re good…very good. You may just get away with it.”
“I usually do” said Greta cheekily while Alex smiled. It was nice to see his boss bested and it reminded him of Dave Warner’s wife, Capt Rihan Kabel, who was Phil’s operations (OPS) officer.
Phil shook his head and turned to Alex and asked “why do I seem to attract women like this?”
“Just lucky Sir…just lucky!”
As if on cue, Rihan poked her head in the door. Her light auburn hair was done up in a French roll and there was almost a sense of mischief in her light green almond eyes. “So this is where everyone is hiding out” she observed.
Phil made a flourish with his hand inviting her to read the message. She brought the rest of her body through the door. At 35 she was the youngest in the room. She had a voluptuous fit body but you couldn’t tell that in the fleet fatigues she was wearing. She read the message and then looked around at the other faces. They were all dead pan. “Good move I say” said Rihan full of confidence.
Phil rolled his eyes as he leaned back in his chair. The others were all smiling.
Chapter 3. Cornacopia to Polaris 1345, 6 September
Commander (Cmdr) Charles Chen looked anxiously at the blood pumping out of his body through the tube and into the container that was attached to the machine that in turn was attached to the gurney he lay on.
He was not regretting undergoing this operation in transit from Chelora to Polaris. No it made sense to have his ear reconstructed before he arrived in Polaris. There would be so much to do then. He knew his mother was already in full swing preparing the ground work that would see him make a run for the Chief Minister’s office next year.
He had been told since as far as he could remember that it was his destiny. Amelia Hubbard, his mother and wife of Harry Chen, the current Federation Treasurer, had never let him forget it. He realised that he was but a proxy for her own stymied ambition. But before his assignment as XO to the FFS Resolute, Dave Warner’s ship, he had made it clear to her that he would be doing so on his own terms.
In part, this medical operation was a way for him to stamp his authority. He had received a signal from her before his departure. She advised him not to have the surgery ‘The war hero needs a visible reminder of his exploits’ she had written.
He was fading fast now, the anaesthetic was claiming him. The image of the young doctor leaning over him dominated his last moments of consciousness. It was an easy face to like. It was not a stunning face or classic or chic but Charles found it very pleasing.
The gurney he was on was soon wheeled into the operating theatre. 1st Lt Merry Li brought the gurney to a halt for the senior surgeon. He turned to her and asked “Any complications?”
She shook her head. She studied the face of the patient and noted that he actually looked content. She put that down to the drugs coursing through his system. “No, we’re good to go!”
Chapter 4. Kiev to Q2 1500, 6 September
Phil Yomoto was enjoying a well-earned coffee break in his office when the priority message came in from Earth advising him of the gelk military commitment. His face lit up and his wide mouth stretched a little further as he grinned. “You beauty!” he exclaimed.
The gelk occupied a string of systems on the inner portion of the Orion Spur and shared a common frontier with the human federation. Despite some initial difficulties the humans and gelk had been coexisting and trading peacefully for many generations.
For months since the war began with the rogan empire the gelk had begged off taking sides. But less than two weeks ago the Federation foreign Minister had successfully secured their commitment to the fight. The signal provided the details Phil needed to integrate them into his strategic plan.
The 1st Gelk Expeditionary Fleet (GEF), including a carrier and 100 fighters and the entire Gondo Corps of crack troops were on their way. But they had a long way to warp in their old first gen ships.
Phil pulled up his star charts on his terminal and began computing their earliest arrival time. The grin dissipated as he read the dates on his screen for each of the waypoints.
‘Polaris – 1 Oct 2513
Chelora – 2 Nov 2513
Q2 – 1 Dec 2513’
“Too late for this battle. Oh well, it will be a nice Xmas present” he said to himself out loud.
The news reminded him of a message in his queue from Dr Mani Govinda, head of new ship construction at Deathly Hollows on Polaris. He opened it and went straight to the production schedule. He scanned down the list of new craft under construction. He noted with a smile that at the end of the month another Resolute class cap and two more Phantom class frigates would be ready for trials. He knew that it would be another six weeks before he would see them in Chelora, four weeks if he really pushed it. A smile came over his face because he knew he would push it.
But the piece de resistance was the FFS Audacity a stealth carrier around which he could build an entire third gen fleet. But this depended on the Lightning stealth fighters. He opened the message he had received yesterday from the Electra Corporation and double checked the delivery dates. He already had forty five lined up along the underground apron of the Electra Corp facility at Bright Waters some 300kms west of Deathly Hollows on Polaris. The name was in stark contrast to its arid mountainous region. Phil smiled again as he remembered the quip by Sheila Shu, the program director at Electra that ‘Dark Desert would have been more apt’.
He began drafting his signal to Polaris HQ instructing them to form by whatever means necessary enough skilled personnel to crew the new ships. ‘If necessary, mothball those second generation ships still under repair from the battle of Polaris and use their crew.’
“This war will be won with those stealth ships” he said out loud to himself. “Mmm…they must have the best crews”. He would let Alex loose on the assignments. ‘He was good at that’ he thought. They would also need the best commander, but Phil already knew who that would be.
Dave O'Connor is an award winning designer of computer war games, a consultant to the military in the simulation space, an expert in artificial intelligence and now author of the Warner's World series of sci-fi books. He is probably best known as President of Panther Games and designer of the Command Ops computer wargame series. He lives in Canberra, Australia, with his wife Joy. He has two adult children.
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