Publication Date: 27 July 2020
Page Length: 326 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Length: 326 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
A rebel double-crossed. A world fallen. And one relentless enemy who will not rest…
Jack Gamble is a shattered man. His lover betrayed him. His contacts in the resistance are scattered. And his best friend may be dead.
With the Galilei Empire closing in, Jack’s ship is intercepted by mercenaries under the command of Captain Ben Stone. Can Jack turn him to his cause, or will Ben turn him?
But Jack can’t afford any emotional entanglements. Not now. He has a rebellion to win and a homeworld to reclaim before the planet and its people are lost forever.
If you like action-packed science fiction adventure with undercover spies, ace pilots, special forces teams, wild battles, and a slow-burn romance, then this space opera is the book for you.
Norse’s comm buzzed to announce the arrival of FE Rabi Gamble. Norse tapped the monitor on his desk to bring up the cam of HQ’s foyer. An honor guard escorted Gamble, just as Norse had ordered. Gamble would expect that. The Grand Emperor always insisted that power and preeminence were on display, though Norse remembered Rabi hated the spectacle but endured it. Jack always loved the attention…
Gamble had stopped to stare at the devastated interior of the HQ first floor. A good thing, because it took Norse’s thoughts away from Jack.
“Mother of Colonists,” Gamble said.
Building services bots sifted through the burnt and splintered remains of the hand-carved desk that graced the entryway. Just beyond the foyer, the grand atrium rose five stories above marbled flooring. Once lush vegetation lay wilted and scorched. Damaged balconies dangled menacingly like limbs of a weeping scarlet tree.
Norse hadn’t been down there himself, but imagined the smell of smoke and ash when every wall had been scarred by blaster burns.
The honor guard filed off as the captain guided Gamble to the south corridor, one of six spokes radiating from the atrium. At the end of the hall, Gamble reached for the touchpad to call for his private lift to the sixth floor office suite, but the captain intervened. “The codes have been changed, sir,” he explained, stepping between Gamble and the pad to enter new access numbers.
“And?” Gamble said.
“Your permissions haven’t been authorized by command…sir.” The captain cleared his throat. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of protocol, extra security. We can’t take chances until the resistance is crushed.”
Norse flicked off the monitor. He was standing in the shadow of the executive suite doorway when Gamble and his escort stepped from the lift a minute later.
“Incredible,” Gamble said. “Not one scratch or blaster burn.”
“The Riga vermin never occupied this floor,” the captain said.
“That may not be entirely true,” Norse added.
Gamble narrowed his eyes as Norse moved out of the shadows. His hands trembled. “Norse?”
“We discovered an aide brutally murdered in his office in the early hours of the invasion. Someone must have gotten through,” Norse added smoothly. “Hello, Rabi. It’s been a long time.”
“What in Mars’ name is going on here?” Gamble’s eyes burned with betrayal.
Norse understood. He’d been Gamble’s aide, a confidant, and close friend. He had betrayed him when he defected to the resistance.
“What is this traitor—”
“Please, Rabi. We have a lot of catching up to do.” Norse dismissed the captain with a nod and gestured toward the private dining room. “Come. Sit down.”
Gamble straightened his shoulders, managing to still his hands as he brushed past Norse. The oversized table was bare, but a smaller one by the windows had two plates set, two crystal goblets, and a bottle of wine. They would be dining alone.
“This view has always been one of my favorites.” Norse tapped the controls to open the shades, flooding the room with early evening light. He took a whiff of the wine and poured them each a glass.
“You always insisted on having this table by the window when we dined together,” Gamble said. “I’ll admit those were the few times I actually had to enjoy this view.”
“Can you blame me?” Norse looked at the ruddy-red sky laced with pink clouds, wondering how long Gamble would play along with his small talk. The sun dipped lower shrouding the botanical gardens behind the HQ in deep shadows. “Thank the Colonists the Riga didn’t lay waste to our jewel.” He pointed to the green oasis. “Look at the tendrils on the baziel trees. They are thicker this year, and the trunk spikes longer. A harsh summer ahead.”
“Weather predictions are of little interest to me, Ari,” Gamble said. “I can sit in my office and enjoy this illusion, but the reality is that my capital is in ruins. Perhaps you will explain why a man who has been my enemy for nine years appears to be in charge of Galilei forces on Torredo.”
“You raised quite a few eyebrows when you brought me back after the murder charge was dismissed.” Norse half smiled. “I don’t remember if I ever thanked you for believing in me.”
Gamble ran a hand through his silver hair. “Your record spoke for itself. Years of loyal service. I might have handed you a job in my Cabinet, not that you wouldn’t have earned it. Then you destroyed my faith in you.”
“You were strong, Rabi. You weathered the storm stirred by my defection.”
“Only because my loudest detractors were recalled to Galilei or transferred to other worlds.” Gamble eyed Norse. “I suppose you had something to do with that?”
Norse cocked his head to one side. “In a manner of speaking.” He pointed toward their dinner. “Shall we sit? The ternak is getting cold.” Without waiting for a reply, Norse made himself comfortable.
Hesitating, Gamble stared past the gardens.
“He’s not out there,” Norse said evenly.
“Jack. He’s not out there,” Norse repeated.
“My nephew? How do you know that?” Gamble’s voice cracked. “I’ve been worried about him. Is he at a safehouse?”
“Hardly.” Norse sipped his wine. “Jack escaped on a small special forces transport. He works for the resistance.”
Gamble froze, silent.
“One of their top operatives,” Norse added, perhaps enjoying the moment more than he should.
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Char published the Battle Scars trilogy set during Richard the Lionheart’s 12th century reign. All three books are B.R.A.G. Medallion honorees; Book II was a finalist and Book III was short-listed in the Chaucer Awards for pre-1750 Historical Fiction, and both are recipients of numerous accolades.
But Char’s writing roots are in science fiction. A huge Star Wars fan, Char contributed numerous short stories to the Lucasfilm-licensed Star Wars Adventure Journal. She has also published a mainstream contemporary family saga: Keeping the Family Peace centers on the lives of a Navy family.
Char loves to travel, and enjoys quiet places in the mountains or on rocky coasts. But even in Kansas she can let her imagination soar.
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