Virtues of War

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Promotion - By Bennett R. Coles

This thrilling new mil­i­tary science fic­tion novel sees a colo­nial act of re­bel­lion threaten to es­ca­late

into all- out in­ter­stel­lar war.

Lieu­tenant Katja Emmes is the op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer for the fast- attack craft Rapier, en­gaged in a mission to res­cue hostages im­pris­oned on the planet Cer­berus.

The pods landed hard on the roof of the des­ig­nated build­ing, blast­ing the sen­tries with their thrusters. As the hatch opened and her troop­ers dis­em­barked, the tock- boom of sup­press­ing fire told Katja that the land­ing zone was not yet se­cure. A sec­ond later, she was out of the pod. “Mother, Al­pha- One. Touch­down, ops red.” Pause. “Mother, roger.” Thomas did not sound calm. The splat­tered re­mains of sev­eral ter­ror­ists colored the flat sur­face. Al­pha Team and Bravo Team fanned out to se­cure the sur­round­ing area, in­clud­ing ad­join­ing build­ings. No more shots were fired. Katja ac­ti­vated her quan­tum- field vi­sion and looked down through the roof. Clear be­low. Sen­tries at the stair­well. But as­tral troop­ers in ar­mored suits didn’t need stairs. She ges­tured to Chang. I see. Four. Down one floor. There. Take. Bravo Team ad­vanced on the stairs, fir­ing their ex­plo­sive rounds di­rectly into the roof of the build­ing. The mul­ti­ple blasts mixed with screams from be­low. Bravo Team, led by Chang, jumped down the hole and started clear­ing the third story. “Al­pha- One, Bravo- One,” Chang said. “Clear for de­scent.” Katja sud­denly re­mem­bered that, in her ar­mored space­suit, their voices couldn’t be heard from the out­side. Her hand ges­tures had been pure re­flex.

“Al­pha- One,” she replied, lead­ing her team down the hole, land­ing heav­ily in her suit. She still had her hel­met locked down – very handy in smoke and flame – but her au­dio sen­sors let her hear what was oc­cur­ring around her. The crackle of burnt plas­tic and metal filled the stair­well. Off to the side a loud thump told her Bravo Team was mov­ing through the third story of apart­ments. Katja fo­cused her quan­tum viewer down the next floor. It was clear. “Bravo- One, Al­pha- One – de­scend­ing to two in the clear.” “Bravo- One.” Katja led the way down the stairs and peered over her ri­fle at the stair­well. Quan­tum flux re­vealed no one be­yond the walls, so she moved to lead them through the door, but Her­nan­dez put a firm hand on her ar­mored shoul­der.

She frowned, and nod­ded. The rest of her team took the lead. Al­pha- Two and Al­pha- Four burst through the door and thun­dered down the cor­ri­dor, re­turn­ing from their sweep just as Bravo Team came down the stairs.

She quan­tum- scanned the first floor. It was crowded with peo­ple. A group hunched ready near the stair­well, likely wait­ing to am­bush any in­trud­ers who came that way. A sec­ond, larger group was fur­ther off to the side, and vague in the flux – most likely the hostages and their cap­tors. Un­for­tu­nately the hostages were wear­ing dress uni­forms, which lacked the quan­tum sig­na­ture patches that would con­firm their iden­ti­ties.

“Al­pha- One, Al­pha- Five. Sus­pect ac­tiv­ity on the streets out­side your build­ing.” Katja paused. “Al­pha- One, roger. Is the threat im­mi­nent?” “Neg­a­tive, but grow­ing.” In­stead of ask­ing for more de­tail, she chose in­stead to fo­cus on the im­me­di­ate task – re­trieve the hostages. She ad­dressed her as­sem­bled troop­ers.

“Bravo Team will strike first to draw their at­ten­tion and take out the group at the stairs. Then Al­pha Team will drop into the mid­dle of the first floor – our ob­jec­tive is the hostages.”

Al­pha Team thumped down the cor­ri­dor to the mid- way point. Katja heard the ex­plo­sions be­hind them as Bravo Team opened fire on the floor above their tar­gets. There was a lot of shoot­ing and shout­ing at that end of the build­ing, and quan­tum re­vealed a flurry of ac­tiv­ity be­low her, as more ter­ror­ists went to help in the de­fense of the stairs.

Katja and her team lined up their weapons and fired at the floor. Care­fully placed ex­plo­sive rounds struck the hard plas­tic and det­o­nated in a storm of fire and smoke. Charred par­ti­cles bounced harm­lessly off her suit and mask, and she leaned in to look through the gap in the floor. There was room to jump. “Go!” She ges­tured em­phat­i­cally. Al­pha- Two and Al­pha- Four dropped through the hole, and the thun­der of gun­fire echoed up. Katja and Her­nan­dez were right be­hind.

The ser­vos cush­ioned her fall, but she still winced as she hit the floor. Bul­lets thud­ded into her chest ar­mor, and she fired off three rounds into the vi­o­lent fray.

Al­ready the en­tire floor was choked with dust and smoke. Katja used her quan­tum flux to see through the haze, and spot­ted a small fig­ure in an attack po­si­tion. She fired, and

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