Christopher's kindly allowed me to snippet from my own upcoming novel, Pompeius Magnus, which will be coming out early May...
20 July, 2337; 8:20 pm Earth GMT.
Gravspace. With a juddering hum, the battered ship eased into hyperspace, and the vision turned from star-specked darkness to a deeper black, dotted with faint and distant green glows.
Commander James Delaney let himself relax slightly. Only slightly, as he leaned back into the chair. It had been three hours since the start of the engagement. Slightly more than a week since Admiral Lettow’s pointless strike began. Drive Earth to the negotiating table, yes. Achieve it by a strike at the impossible, no! How much of the fleet had been destroyed, how many killed? The Clodius was gone. So were the Annius Milo, the Tullius Cicero, the Licinius Crassus and the Gaius Julius; every other ship of their squadron. Lettow’s own flagship, the Thomas Paine, had been crippled – perhaps destroyed, Lettow wounded and conceivably dead. To say nothing of the rest of the fleet.
Billions of dollars worth of ships, some of the Senate’s finest, along with more than two thousand lives, lost. Men who had fought at Trenton six weeks ago, whose skill and bravery had helped win the largest battle in human history. Men whose lives had been thrown away now like so much popcorn: the Senate’s best, wasted in a futile gesture.
He would have seethed. He had seethed the night before, in a private conference with the other squadron captains and the squadron commander. Captain Jameson had told him she disliked it herself, but orders were orders.
Orders are suicide, he thought as he stood up. Lieutenant-Commander Jennifer Wang, ship weapons officer, was coming towards him. A coldly beautiful Eurasian woman, her face was cut open and covered in blood; her right hand was missing, severed between the wrist and the elbow. A plainly-cauterized wound less than an hour old.
“What’s the status, Wang?”
The artificial gravity fluttered again, and both officers flinched. Wang’s once-white uniform, Delaney noticed, was covered in blood. Filthy with it. Not just her own.
“We were lucky, very lucky. If that nuke had been just a fraction closer, it would have overwhelmed shielding. Casualties were light anyway. Seven more dead, nine critically injured, another eleven wounded but capable of limited emergency functions. Sir.”
Seven plus nine plus eleven plus eighteen. Delaney had calculated the horrifying arithmetic before Wang finished her sentence. “Seventeen remain from sixty-two,” he said. “More than seventy percent casualties.”
“With respect, sir, not all of those are full casualties. We have twenty-six effectives. Including myself, sir,” said Wang. She dabbed at the blood on her face with an already-sodden bandage, flinching as she did so. For a moment the wound itself was exposed. A horrible one; a deep cut from her right ear down to her mouth, a fleeting glimpse of bone.
“Have you anaesthetized that, Wang?”
“Sufficiently, sir. There’s a finite amount of the locals left.”
Again, Delaney nodded. He’d been cut in a half-dozen places, but they weren’t even relevant flesh wounds. Imploding panels caused by electronic disruptions; the pain hurt, but was insignificant. If anything, it kept him alert.
Thirty-two of my people dead. We’re not going to get to a hospital for a week. For two weeks. God. My God. Why are we doing this?
“What about the ship – what’s our current status?”
“Primary weapons are all gone, sir. Direct railgun hit critically damaged main upper, laser burns and another shell wrecked main lower, and the nuke’s pulse crippled the others except for the aft antimissile, which is damaged but operational. Engines are limping but functional. Gravspace is obviously online. Torpedoes, we have three tac-nukes that read as nonfunctional, probably jizzed up by that EMP, and a dozen guided incendiaries that were better-shielded and read as functional. Life support is damaged, but secondary backup is working. Art-grav holds, but navigation is damaged. And external comms are mostly destroyed.”
Wang took a deep breath.
“OK. Stand down and get something to eat. Do something for those poor incapacitated bastards, if you can.”
For a moment Delaney was tempted to tell her and let them know I’m sorry. So sorry. But that would have revealed weakness, the one thing he could not possibly afford to show right now. Not at all. His ship had nearly been destroyed; thirty-two dead was a miracle, it should have been more, would have been everyone if the lasers had backflashed. The survivors were shaken, and if their captain lost his cool…
They’d never survive.
Snippets of upcoming and in-progress works.
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