Virtues of War
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