Exodus: Empires at War: Book 1 was the surprise novel of my writing Universe. I had originally planned for a book promotion at the end of November for the novel, after a promotion of The Shadows of the Multiverse that was to propel that book to the same sales level as The Deep Dark Well. It didn’t work that way. Exodus Book 1 just seemed to take off as soon as it was released, selling over a thousand copies in its first six weeks. This week it has hit over 1,400 sales, and I fully expect it to go over two thousand by the end of the month. What surprised me was that Shadows had a bunch of five star reviews prior to its promotion, while Exodus started selling with no reviews and no likes. Now it has two 5 star and four 4 star, as well as a 3 and a lowly 1 that really didn’t make any sense. Oh, and still only one like, which leads me to question whether likes mean anything at all.
Tomorrow I will release Book 2 of the series, which in all respects is a continuation of the storyline told in Book 1. This will not always be the case with this series (and I am planning between 12 and 15 books in the series). There will be some spin offs that will feed into the overall tale but involve different characters, with only Cameo appearances by the main cast. Hopefully the 1,400 readers who have already bought the first book liked it enough to pick up the second. For those unfamiliar with the storyline, Exodus III is the name of the one refugee ship known to have escaped from the Ca’cadasan Empire, a large expansionist race whose goal is to exterminate humanity for a breach of honor during their conflict. A human killed the son of the Emperor during a landing after the humans in that system had surrendered. The human race sent a number of ships containing fifty thousand refugees each and the sum total knowledge of the humanity. One is known to have escaped, and fled ten thousand light years on a thousand year voyage to another arm of the Galaxy, where they have reestablished themselves. A thousand years later and the New Terran Empire boasts thousands of inhabited worlds and a population of about a trillion. They are the preeminent military power of their region of space. And the Ca’cadasans have found them, setting up a clash of mighty Empires that will ravage hundreds of worlds and kill hundreds of billions.
It is also the story of a young man, an Imperial Prince, who is a serving officer on an Imperial Battleship. Sean Ogden Lee Romanov is a very junior officer aboard the vessel, a Lieutenant SG, third in line for the throne. The posting is one intended to give him some experience while not putting his life in danger. Reality soon overtakes this illusion, and Sean finds himself first in danger of his life, then in a position he had hoped to never occupy.
Exodus is a story with a lot of characters covering an enormous expanse of territory. I did not feel that the tale could be told in any other manner. It can be confusing to some readers. Think Harry Turtledove if you want an idea of the style. It also contains a lot of technical data, some real, some made up. Think David Weber without long info dumps. It is the kind of tale I always wanted to write, while being told that first novels can’t be too long or have too many characters. This is not my first novel, and as a self published author now I make the rules. And so far sales seem to have shown that I made the right choice. And now for an excerpt:
Gabriel Len Lenkowski had enjoyed his job as Chief of Naval Operations. Of working with the Fleet, and in particular with this Emperor. But the Emperor was gone, and he knew little about the son who was now first in line for succession. If he was still alive, that is.
The Admiral looked out over the city as he walked along the roof of the Hexagon, the military headquarters for the Empire. The huge office building stood almost a kilometer in height, dwarfed by the many megascrapers of the city. It outdid any of them in girth, more like an Arcology than an office building. And it extended under the earth for several more kilometers, ending in the bunker like shelters that were proof against all but heavy kinetic rounds or warheads in the gigaton range.
“You ready to launch?” he asked the crew chief as soon as he entered the shuttle that was waiting on the landing platform.
“As soon as you strap in, sir,” said the senior CPO who chiefed the Admiral’s personal craft. “You of course want your usual position?”
“Of course, chief,” said the Admiral, walking past the crewman to the cockpit hatch, which opened at his approach. Len slid into the chair next to the pilot and strapped himself in.
“Welcome aboard sir,” said the pilot, a young Lt. Commander. “Wish the circumstances were better.”
“Me too, Sally,” said the Admiral, trying to force a smile on his face that would not come. “Me too. Just get me up to the Valkyrie pronto, and we can get this business over with.
The pilot nodded, checked a few indicators, and took the ship up on grabbers. The Admiral looked to the side at the huge city that just the other day was in the middle of a millennial celebration. Supposed to last a whole year, thought the Admiral. There had been events planned out for the entire T-year, to culminate in the Imperial Athletic Games that would have brought maybe a billion people to the planet. Instead we have a yearlong period of mourning for an assassinated Emperor.
The shuttle passed over Peal Island, the nine hundred square kilometer land mass at the mouth of the bay. Down there was the primary academy for training officers of the fleet. Len was scheduled to make a commencement speech for this year’s graduating class, those who had spent their four years of classroom studies and were preparing to go on field studies. He wondered how the war the Emperor knew was coming would affect that graduation. The fleet would need more officers, and soon, and many of those young men and women might have to get on the job field training, in a shooting war.
The island and the surface of the ocean dropped behind and below as the ship moved into space, pulling the gravities needed to go directly to geosynch and the ship waiting for the Admiral. He trusted the Captain of that ship, as he trusted the Admiral of its task force. He could not force them to take the risk that he knew he must. A risk to both free an innocent woman, and get military necessary production back on schedule.
The forward port hanger of Valkyrie was ready for him, with a full Marine honor guard and gathered ship’s officers to pipe him aboard.
“At ease,” he barked as he stepped from the shuttle onto the deck of the hanger. “Thank you for the welcoming committee, Captain Mathers,” he said to the blond commander of the vessel. She tilted her head, then led him to the flag bridge he would occupy for this short mission. The bridge was occupied by a full complement of officers, even though there would only be two battleships involved in this day’s events.
“I’ll be on the bridge,” said the Captain to the Chief of Naval Operations who had been commandant when she had graduated from Peal Island five decades before. “We are ready to do whatever you feel is necessary sir.”
“With no hesitation, Connie?”
“None at all, sir,” said the small trim officer. “If you want that damned wanderer destroyed we will be obliged to do it.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” said the CNO with a smile. “I appreciate this, Connie. Now get her under way.”
“Aye aye, sir,” said the Captain, snapping to attention and giving a salute, then spinning on her heel and walking from the flag bridge.
“We are under way, sir” said one of the officers sitting a station on the lower level.
“Odin is also under way,” called out another officer.
“Thank you,” said the Admiral, plopping back in the elevated chair that allowed him a total view of the large bridge. He couldn’t even feel the twenty million ton superbattleship moving, which was not surprising, given her well-tuned compensators. He looked over at a wall repeater which showed the fifteen million ton battleship that was Valkyrie’s consort on this impromptu mission.
“Ten hours to hyper limit,” called out an officer.
“Incoming message for the Admiral,” said the com tech from her position on his level.
“I’ll take it in my day cabin,” said the Admiral, getting up from the chair and heading for the exit that led to the Admiral’s cabin on all capital ship flag bridges. One of the advantages of standardization, he thought as he headed into his cabin.
As soon as he took a seat at the desk in the cabin he activated the com with his link, and was unsurprised to see the image of Ekaterina Sergiov, the head of the IIA, appear.
“So,” said the woman with a slight accent of her home world, St. Peiter, coming through her educated overlay. “You are in space.”
“I don’t see that I have any other choice,” said the Admiral, the slight touch of fear in his chest. He was doing this on his own, and the consequences could be grave. “I failed my Emperor and my friend. I can’t allow the search for a scapegoat to hurt the Empire. And what are your findings.”
“She is innocent,” said the head of Imperial Intelligence, her face troubled. “I have told that to my counterpart in IIB, and he will do nothing about it. He will not say it, but I think you are correct, Len, my friend. He needs a scapegoat, and is not willing to admit that he was caught with his pants down.”
“Hell, we were all caught with our pants down, Kate,” he said to the woman he had once been married to, in what seemed a lifetime before. Before their careers had pulled them apart. “I feel like I have betrayed Augustine myself, as if I launched that missile that tossed him and the Imperial family into that damned star eater.”
“We all failed the Emperor,” said the chief spy of the Empire. “At least we have admitted it on behalf of our two agencies. That damned McGregor would not admit to any failings. His Bureau must maintain a perfect record, even if we both know it doesn’t have one.”
“Did you try him again?” said the Admiral, knowing what the answer would be, but hopeful nonetheless.
“Yes,” said the woman, her angry eyes glaring into the screen. “He said it was a criminal investigation, and so in his jurisdiction. And warned me to keep my agency out of it. When I asked him about what proof he had, he said he didn’t have to have any. He could hold her indefinitely.”
“And sabotage the efforts of the Donut Project to get the Fleet what they need,” said the Admiral in a growl.
“How far are you willing to go?” she asked, her eyes showing her concern for an old friend and lover.
“As far as I have to,” he replied, slamming a hand down on his desk. “We’ll be eight light hours from com link to the capital, so they won’t be able to contact McGregor. I really don’t expect much resistance. But whatever they give I will push back, and harder.”
“I’ll back you up,” said Ekaterina with a nod. “You know that.”
“I know,” said the Admiral, feeling his eyes moisten. “And I’m sorry I failed you in the past.”
“No need,” said the spy master with a smile, her own eyes glistening withheld tears. “We both got what we wanted out of life. And we parted as friends. What more could we ask?”
“True,” said the Admiral, holding back his own tears. They both sat there in silence for a moment. “You watch your back,” he finally said to the chief spy.
“My back is watched,” said Ekaterina. “You do the same. There will be people after your hide.”
“This is my office for the duration,” said the Admiral with a chuckle. “If they want to try for me they’re going to have to come through the Fleet to get me.”
“I just hope it doesn’t result in civil war,” said the woman, her eyes narrowing. “That’s something we surely can’t afford, especially now.”
“We have the Fleet and the Army on our side,” said the Admiral, the image of a civil war also in mind. “I think it would be very short, if it came to that. Not that I want that to happen. But I also cannot let things proceed the way they are. McGregor is in the Lords’ pocket. No doubt. And I cannot let him proceed with what he is doing. That project is just too important to the safety of the Empire.”
Well, be careful,” said the chief spy. “Remember, we all felt that the Emperor was safe in the hands of the Fleet. It only takes one assassin in the right place to make all the security in the world useless.”
Ekaterina broke the link at that, and the Admiral thought of what she had to say for a moment. The sense of guilt came back to haunt him. The Fleet had failed to protect their Emperor. Even worse, a trusted member of the Fleet had killed the Emperor and most of his family, as well as fellow officers and spacemen. It was a blot on the honor of the Fleet, and to his personal sense of honor. But I’ll be damned if I let it lead to even more dishonorable actions.
The Admiral lay down on the bed that was provided with the cabin, ordering it through the link to set itself to his personal comfort level. His brain was in turmoil, but his link projected the deep delta waves that placed him into an immediate slumber. The link woke him up at the same time the slight nausea of hyper translation would have done the same.
“We’re in hyper I Admiral,” came the voice of Captain Connie Mathers. “Mission proceeding according to plan.
“Thank you, Connie,” replied the Admiral, getting up from the bed, smoothing his uniform, the wrinkles falling away. “I’ll be on the flag bridge.”
The officers and ratings all jumped to attention as the Admiral walked onto the second level of the flag bridge, his eyes tracking onto the large holo tank in the center of the room. He waved a hand, sending everyone back to their ease, wondering again who had come up with the silly custom of men and women stopping their important work to stroke the ego of some bastard just because he entered their line of sight.
The holo displayed the whole of the supersytem, from the black hole in the center to the seventh star out in its lonely orbit. All of the planets were indicated with vector arrows and numbers that signified speed of orbit and distance from the flagship. He thought through his link and his personal view of the holo changed, zooming in on the flagship and her consort. Their vector arrows appeared, and the line of the hyper I limit showed behind them, the line of hyper II ahead. The mission profile was to jump each hyper as soon as they got to it, staying below point two light relative velocity, until they jumped to hyper VI. Then it was a least time accel/decel profile to the target, popping out of hyper VI directly into normal space. Of course the target would know they were coming, and would also know they were Imperial Fleet vessels. With luck they would not think anything of it.
The Admiral went to his seat and sat, brooding on his thoughts and waiting for time to pass. The ship in time jumped up to hyper II, then III, then along the line up to VI. At this point the vessels went into an acceleration profile, two hundred and fifty gravities just a little under half way there, then two fifty decel the rest of the way. All this time the Admiral thought about what he was doing, having doubts, thinking through possible consequences, knowing that if the Emperor were still alive he would not have this problem thrust upon him. Augustine would have handled the situation with a word. Even Sean would have handled the situation. Of that the Admiral was sure. Because Sean was his father’s son, above all else.
But Sean is not here, thought the Admiral. Someone had already made an attempt on the Prince. And they might have made further attempts on his life since the news had come from Sector Four. Of course Sean was now protected by the Fleet. But the Fleet had failed his father, mother and brothers. The only family member in direct line was a child who would be too easily manipulated. So that left the problem square in his lap.
High Grand Admiral Len Lenkowski, Chief of Naval Operations, had sworn an oath when he entered Imperial Service, to defend the Empire against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Intentional or not, the act of Director McGregor of the IIB was hurting the efforts of the military to prepare for a war they were sure was coming. Parliament might not agree with that assumption, but the Emperor the Admiral had sworn to serve was sure of it, and that was good enough for him.
“Translating back to normal space,” came a call from the nav officer on the ship’s bridge.
Damn, thought the Admiral as the nausea struck. What happened to the time?
The ship slipped through the iris that was filled with normal space, away from the strange space of hyper. They were slowly coasting, moving at a mere six hundred kilometers per second.
“Range to target four hundred twelve thousand kilometers,” came the voice of the navigator again.
Almost a perfect translation, thought the Admiral. Eleven minutes at current speed, though the ship was now piling on deceleration so she could come to a stop just short of the small planet.
“Imperial warship Valkyrie,” came the voice over the com. “This is Purgatory control. What are your intentions?”
“Don’t answer that,” said the Admiral to the staff. “Let them sweat for a moment. Tactical. Target all laser and particle beam systems of the task force on their defensive weapons. Distribute targets between Valkyrie and Odin. All Marines to assault shuttles.”
The confirmations came back quickly, the plan being set into motion by an experienced team.
“We are getting inquiries from the defense force,” called the com officer.
“Who are they?” asked the Admiral, focusing on the holo tank which had reconfigured to show the local area.
“Imperial cruiser River Platte and two destroyers,” called back one of the tactical officers. “Along with four IP frigates belonging to the Imperial Bureau of Prisons.”
“Inform the Fleet ships that they are no longer under local control, but are to stand down and prepare to aid us,” ordered the Admiral, looking at the holo and focusing on one of the civilian ships. “Send my authentication codes.”
“And the Bureau ships?” asked the second com tech, looking over her shoulder at the Admiral. “They’re lighting my board, Admiral, sending multiple inquiries.”
“Tell them to also stand down,” said Len, glaring at the frigate he had brought into zoom focus. “Under pain of being fired upon.”
There, he thought, switching his view to another frigate. I’ve stuck it in for good now.
“We’re still getting inquiries from the planet,” yelled out the chief com officer.
The Admiral checked the status of the ship, noting that they were only thirty-four seconds from a complete stop. “Put them on the line.”
“Prison planet Purgatory,” came the voice over the com. “Valkyrie, what are your intentions. Repeat, you are approaching restricted space and are warned away. This is Central Control of Prison Planet Purgatory.”
“This is High Grand Admiral Lenkowski,” said the Admiral in his most forceful voice. “Chief of Naval Operations for the New Terran Empire Navy. We are here on official Fleet business. You are holding a prisoner illegally, and we will take her with us.”
“Launch,” said the Admiral, leaning over and looking at the Marine liaison officer.
“Launching,” said that officer. Moments later the holo was filled with the green arrows of assault shuttles, moving away from the battleships and toward the planet.
“You are not authorized to take prisoners from this installation,” came the voice of Central Control. “You must have permission of the Imperial Bureau of Prisons, or a court order to take a prisoner.”
“Nonetheless, we have come for a prisoner that you will release to my custody,” said the Admiral. “Prepare to be boarded by my Marines.”
“Their weapons are fully powered,” said one of the tactical officers.
“Any attempt to take anyone off this station will be met with deadly force,” said the Central Controller. “This is an illegal action, and will subject all participants to prosecution and arrest.”
“Please,” said one of the techs with a laugh.
“Do not fire on our shuttles,” said the Admiral, hoping the damned fools would see reason.
“They’ve fired a shot,” said the tactical commander. “No hit. Looks like a warning shot.”
“Take out all of their weapons installations, except for the fort,” ordered the Admiral in a cold voice. The tactical officer looked back at the Admiral with wide eyes. “Now, Commander.”
“Aye aye, sir,” said the Commander, turning back to his board.
There were eighty-five weapons installations on the planet’s surface, lasers and missile batteries, and three dozen platforms in space. The battleships opened up with all laser batteries and particle beams. In moments the installations, not made to stand up to capital ship bombardment, were silenced.
“The fort is sending capitulation signals,” said the com officer. “The naval personnel aboard have taken over.”
“I kind of thought they would,” said the Admiral with a smile. “Now I can only the hope the one on the other side of the planet does the same.” He looked over at the Marine officer. “Keep me apprised of the assault.” The officer nodded and kept at his board, talking into the com link.
“One of the frigates is firing missiles,” called out the Commander in charge of tactical.
“Take them out,” ordered the Admiral, knowing he didn’t have to give defensive commands. The captains in charge would see to that. The ship vibrated slightly at that thought, the battleship cycling counter missiles. There really was no chance that a frigate would shoot its way through the defenses of two capital ships.
The holo showed the reward that came the way of the frigate, as it exploded in space under the assault of hundreds of pentawatts of laser power.
“If any of those others are stupid enough to fire, blast them,” said the Admiral, his attention drawn to a high mounted side screen where the assault shuttles were blasting the doors of the hanger bays, then flying in.
The Admiral fretted for a couple of minutes, worrying about what might be happening during the Marine assault. Something he couldn’t do anything about, which made it so much more worrisome.
“We are meeting some resistance,” said the Marine Liaison Officer. “Nothing really unexpected, sir. And nothing our boys and girls can’t handle.”
Pray God we just keep the casualties light on both sides, thought the Admiral. He knew that none of those fighting was responsible for this mess. For the most part the prison security force were good men doing a job. And some of them were going to die for it because they were standing in the way of what should be done.
More time passed. The Admiral restrained himself from watching through the cameras of the Marines. There would be too much temptation to step in and micromanage. Something the Corps didn’t condone, much less the Navy.
“We have her, sir,” said the Marine Liaison Officer. “She’s in good shape. And the Colonel is also reporting some surprising prisoners we thought long gone.”
Len looked at the dozen names that scrolled across his link, whistling at some of them. Men who had disappeared, presumed dead. Held in captivity in that hell hole for how long? “Make sure they get aboard as well.”
Within another half hour it was over, and a signal sent to the IIB HQ on Jewel would still be seven hours in transit to reach anyone who could do anything.
“Everyone is aboard, Admiral,” said the liaison officer.
“How many casualties?”
“The Marines have three permanent dead,” said the officer, the smile leaving his face. “Another fifty-four that should all return to duty.”
“Thank you Lord,” whispered the Admiral under his breath. He didn’t ask the casualty figures for the defenders. He didn’t want to know. “Bring the prisoner to the flag bridge, if you please, Major,” he said to the Marine Liaison. That man nodded.
“Central Control,” said the Admiral, switching on the link back to the outgoing com. “We will be leaving now. Thank you for your cooperation.”
“You will regret this, Admiral,” said the voice of the controller.
I already do, thought the Admiral, again thinking about those who had died this day. He got up from his seat and headed back to the day cabin, staggering just a step as the ship jumped back into hyper VI.
A few minutes later the door buzzer sounded. “Come in,” he said, watching the door as it opened. An officer stood at the door.
“She’s here, Admiral,” said the man, gesturing the tall blond woman with slightly slanted eyes into the compartment. The Admiral nodded his thanks and gestured the woman to a chair.
“I’m sure you’re wondering what this is about,” said the Admiral, leaning forward across the desk.
“Not as much as I’m thankful to get out of that place,” said Dr. Lucille Yu, a smile creeping across her face.
“We’ll make sure you don’t return,” said the Admiral, noting the intelligent eyes of the woman. “You shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”
“So,” said the scientist in a soft voice. “What happens to me now?”
“You go back to work,” said the Admiral. “Getting the Fleet what it needs from the Donut Project.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” agreed the Admiral, holding his hands open to her.
“And what’s to stop them from putting me back in that place?”
“We’re to stop them,” said the Admiral. “We’ll get you back on the station and keep you secure. It will mean having to give up some privacy.”
“But I’ll be able to work,” said the woman, tears coming to her eyes. “That’s all I want to do. Do my work, and help my society.”
And Len Lenkowski knew he had made the right decision this day. Now he just had to live with the consequences.