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UNEDITED

Yollin System, Three Years After Straiphus Rebellion

They say that history is written by the victors, and they are right. The reason is completely logical. Those who lost aren’t around to write anything.

The dead can’t write from beyond the grave.

The latest and most impressive ship built in Yollin’s new military shipyards slowly and smoothly slid from its moorings as the hundreds watching from nearby ships raised their hands in salute.

The Empress stared in silence as the massive new ship glided into place next to her official Royal In-system Transport Pod. Doors opened to allow the Empress’ conveyance to enter the new ship’s cavernous docking bay.

It wasn’t long before the passengers from the Transport Pod disembarked and made their way to the bridge, which was located in the center of the massive vessel. Bethany Anne stopped outside the bridge to look at the six-foot-wide dark gray stone monument that had so many names chiseled into it. She reached over and rubbed her hand across a few. Turning, she wiped a tear from her cheek and took the last few steps to the bridge. The doors opened automatically for her.

She nodded to those who had gathered to await her arrival: the head of the Yollin shipyard, the team who had worked to make this ship usable by both humans and Yollins, and the crew who had developed the massive electronic infrastructure necessary to house the new Intelligence.

She walked straight to the Captain’s Chair and sat down. The Shipyard Master looked at the Minister of Defense, who winked back at him.

“This is Empress Bethany Anne of the Etheric Empire. Show yourself,” she commanded.

A face which was a replica of Bethany Anne’s slowly brightened into view on the front screens, her eyes flaring red. Some on the bridge were shocked to see the face of the Empress on the screens.

Their Empress, however, smiled in satisfaction. “Hello, ArchAngel. It’s damned good to have you back.”

The face on the screen appeared to look around the room at everyone standing on her bridge,  then directed her gaze to the woman seated in the Captain’s Chair and smiled.

“Hello, Mother.”

There was a second when no one even breathed, as the AI continued, “This is the, Leviathan-class Superdreadnought ArchAngel II. I have been commanded to protect the Etheric Empire by Empress Bethany Anne. The Weapons Lockdown Protocols on this ship have not yet been implemented. Do you order me to enact lockdown protocols, Mother?”

“No, I do not,” Bethany Anne replied.

“Lockdown protocols are not activated. Leviathan-class Superdreadnought ArchAngel II is now fully operational and will fight all who attack the Etheric Empire until victorious…or destroyed.”

Bethany Anne smiled, her eyes red in memory of those whose names graced the stone outside the bridge. “Good. It’s time you kicked some more ass, ArchAngel.”

It had been ten years since that event, and the Etheric Empire had grown in influence, power and prestige. Unfortunately, what they hadn’t grown in was knowledge of where Kurtherians might be hiding.

In the intervening time, those who were aware of the rumors of the human’s Empress discounted them. While she was very commanding in person, most didn’t believe the stories the humans told in the bars, cities and outer places.

Or the few videos she still permitted to float around.

That was about to change.

  

CHAPTER ONE

 

Pirate Ship F’zeer

The vessel on his screen was neither sleek nor svelte. In fact, if you looked closely at it, you might have called it a large bathtub in space.

It was ugly, but it wasn’t small. The potential value of its contents was significant enough that even a small piece of them would be worth a couple weeks of gluttony on one of the pirate worlds.

Or on some of the seedier space stations that existed in most systems.

The captain of the pirate ship F’zeer stayed the course as he watched the passive viewing instrumentation’s data. For the last five years, those damned humans had made his job more and more difficult in the outer reaches of the Eubos, Straiphus and Gorn Systems. First he had been forced to give up his minor slave-trading efforts in Eubos, then black-marketeering had largely become unprofitable in Straiphus, and now the rumor was that just a bit over thirty days ago there had been a set of news torps shot into the Gorn System warning that the Etheric Empress’ Rangers would be extending their damned reach into that locality.

For the good of all citizens.

Well, Brell thought, it wasn’t for the good of his clan at all. So apparently the Etheric Empire didn’t consider his kind citizens. Which was fine.

He didn’t want to be a part of their special clique anyway.

“Captain?” First Officer Wig turned to look at him from his seat a step lower on the bridge. “Permission to engage?”

Brell hadn’t found any ships following the massive commercial vessel, and he had tried. His ship had placed large emitters on the other side of the trajectory the ship was expected to fly. If there had been a cloaked vessel lying in wait, they would have known about it.

“Go,” he commanded finally, and reached for his log book. They might have been pirates, but that didn’t mean they ran a loose ship.

If you weren’t a good businessman, being a pirate could be an excellent way to lose your life.

 

Commercial Transport K’Leen II out of Yollin Territory, heading toward Gorn Station 2215

“Captain, we just got hit by active sensor!” Radar Operator D’ber yelled.

“Dammit.” Captain M’rin clicked his mandibles and locked his four legs to his couch. “I had hoped the memos would do the trick.”

“That is because you just lost a hundred credits to me,” the Captain’s steward commented as he placed a drink and a stim pill next to the Captain.

Captain M’rin turned to look at his steward, who had a small gleam in his eye. “Well, it might be that, or it might be those idiots.” He pointed toward the main screen on the bridge, which was now plotting the location of the suspected pirate vessel. “Assholes might just blow some holes in us instead of boarding.”

Steward A’nick sniffed and shrugged his shoulders, a completely human movement. “We all have a time to die, Captain.”

“Well,” M’rin turned toward the screen as he waited for the next step in this dance, “if it is all the same to you, I don’t intend to do that anytime soon.”

A’nick nodded. “I doubt our passengers wish to perish either.”

Captain M’rin punched a button. “This is the Captain speaking. We have a possible pirate heading in our direction. All secondary personnel, go to your safety zones and remain there until we sound the all-clear or call you for support services. Please be aware that decompression might occur. Take all necessary precautions.”

He clicked off the call button and blew out a breath of air. “Ok, patch me into Section Two-Two-One.”

 

Section Two-Two-One, Mid-Spine, Commercial Transport K’Leen II

 

Ryu held his hands straight out, palms down. His face was a study in composure, eyes unblinking. If you didn’t’ know any better, you might think him a 3D-printed statue.

The set of hands beneath his barely flinched, but the change was enough for him to pull on the Etheric and move his hands out of the way. The female’s hands sliced through the air where his had been a microsecond before.

“DAMMIT!” Tabitha hissed as she missed Ryu’s hands. She had decided that he would use a straight-back exit strategy for this game of slaps, but the little bastard had pulled his hands in two separate directions.

“That is officially seven misses in a row, Kemosabe,” the Japanese man told the Hispanic woman. “You now owe me seventy pushups.”

Gott Verdammt!” Tabitha eyed him. While she technically outranked him, he was still one of her two mentors and counselors. She had learned a lot in the last few years, but she would never catch up to the knowledge Ryu had acquired in the hundreds of years he been alive.

“Double or nothing?” she asked, smiling at Ryu in an attempt to sell it better.

He raised an eyebrow. “No.”

“Double-dammit!” Tabitha groaned as she dropped to the floor. “This is so fucking embarrassing.”

“You need the exercise anyway, Tabitha,” Ryu consoled her. “Why is it that doing the exercises is a problem?”

“It’s exercise,” she grumped. “That’s all I should have to say. Hell, it’s not chocolate or sex, so why would you even ask?”

The speaker came on. “This is the Captain speaking. We have acquired suspected pirate activity. What is your command, Ranger Tabitha?”

Tabitha spoke up. “Mind your P’s and Q’s, Captain M’rin, and tell me where the fucking exit on this ship is. Or at least where they are going to come aboard.”

 

Pirate Ship F’zeer

Captain Brell nodded to his communications specialist. “Put me on tight-beam to the K’Leen.”

Brell was hoping that he… Yes! As he was waiting for the communication video link to connect and steady, he heard that the captain of the other ship was a male Yollin. He wondered if he could get the captain to defect from the Etheric Empire and bring his ship along for the ride. “This is Captain Brell of the F’zeer. Who am I addressing?”

The video didn’t show. “This is the captain of the K’Leen out of the Yollin System, part of the Etheric Empire. To what do I owe this honor?”

Captain Brell released the transmit button so his voice wouldn’t travel. “Honor?” He looked around the bridge and spotted the chuckles he had anticipated. He pushed the button to talk. “K’Leen,” he started, leaning into the mic, “you will slow down, and we will board your ship. We are going to review your manifests and decide on the most valuable tribute to take for allowing you to continue on your way.”

Brell exhaled dramatically. “And unfortunately, Captain, you and your command staff will be offered the opportunity to join us here on the F’zeer as our short-term guests. And by guests, I mean slaves. Now, if you don’t like this choice, I would like to offer you the chance to join our Navy. With such a handsome ship as the K’Leen, you and your command staff would be celebrated upon your arrival.”

Brell muted the mic. “Of course,” Brell continued, winking to his First Officer. “Everyone else on the ship will be either sold into slavery or spaced. Probably half of his command staff will also be sold or spaced.” Brell shrugged his shoulders. “But what he doesn’t know probably won’t affect this next decision, anyway.”

The K’Leen’s captain’s voice came back over the speaker, his annoyance evident. “F’zeer, you can kiss my Yollin behind. There is no way I will give up my ship to your useless Skaine asses.”

Brell punched the button. “Why are you suggesting we are Skaine, Captain?” He released the button and continued talking just to his bridge crew, “Not that he is wrong. I’m just curious.”

The answer didn’t make him any happier. “Because,” the K’Leen’s Captain said, “the Etheric Empire has scan data on many of the Skaine ships, and we have a 98.7% match to your ship, real name Kurket. This information has already been sent to our home office, and from there it will be sent into Central Defense Command.”

 

Section Two-Two-One, Mid-Spine, Commercial Transport K’Leen II

Gott Verdammt!” Tabitha hissed. “He’s going to fuck up my opportunity here.”

Ryu shook his head. “The goal, Kemosabe, is to protect the transport, the assets, and reduce piracy. Not to kill every Skaine in existence.”

Tabitha looked over at her Tonto. “Well, those might be the written commands, but I received a memo.”

“Yes?” Ryu looked sideways at his boss. Memos had become digital voodoo with Tabitha. The more outrageous they were, the more believable it was that they were real. How she alone received them in foreign systems so she could point to them when she needed to, he wasn’t sure.

Ryu and Hirotoshi had tried questioning Achronyx, only to have him tell them he didn’t have the information they sought.

Both knew Tabitha had enough programming prowess to accomplish such sneakiness  as the memos, but had figured she would have engaged Achronyx’s assistance in any such endeavor.

So far, they had gotten nowhere.

“Yes, the memo stated that the Skaine would be dealt with ‘in a manner commensurate with their previous behavior.’”

 


 

FROM MICHAEL>>>  <Author wipes forehead>  …. Ok, I have to admit that I was SWEATING (not only literally, but figuratively as well) with trying to hit end of this month or very beginning of July with this book release.

Why?

Well, I released my last solo book (The Darkest Night – The Second Dark Ages (Michael’s Return) on May 24th and my goal was to try and hit the end of June, one (ish) months later. But, in the middle of all of this was our son’s graduations (Jacob and Joey) from High School, all of the family and parties that entails, PLUS a long 19 day vacation trip to Europe in the middle of everything plus three additional collaboration releases, Audio books…

You know, the normal stuff.

Add in that I got sick for about 8-10 days during the trip and it has been challenging (what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right?)

Well, I’m happy to say I have over 62,000 words in editing, and only 2 chapters to finish (I hope to finish words complete tomorrow.)

I’ve got two last bang bang, pew pew …kill, kill, kill and kill some more scenes to write and then we are wrapping it up for Final Editing / BETA pass and JIT pass before release to everyone here.

I hope you enjoy the latest adventures of Empress Bethany Anne… Or better known to those at the end of the book – The Queen Bitch.

 

Michael

About the author

manderle

Michael Anderle (ok, weird talking about myself in the 3rd person) (1967-Hopefully a long time from NOW) was born in Houston, Tx. A very curious child, he got into trouble – a lot. What to do with an inquisitive mind when he was grounded? Read!

Ok, done with all of that 3rd person stuff.

In the first 20 years, I mostly read Science Fiction and Fantasy. In the last 10 years I have enjoyed Urban Fantasy and Military Fiction. With this background, I’ve been blessed with creating The Kurtherian Gambit series, a well-selling, and fan loved, collection of stories.

The fans have propelled these stories beyond my wildest imagination and they should get all of the credit for sharing with friends, family and occasionally the random person on the street. They are fantastic!

See all of my books on Amazon Here – Michael Anderle on Amazon