The second Tales of the Empire anthology is now available on Amazon. Get it here in the US, and here in the UK. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (also known as Kindle Prime). Three novellettes and three short stories, for a total of seventy-seven thousand words of fiction, almost a novel (a novel is classified as anything over 40,000 words, though most published first novels today come in at between 90-120K words). All having to do with threats to the citizens of the Empire, some natural, some very unnatural.
I published the first Tales of the Empire, three novellettes, as an experiment. I had written a novellette for Kevin J Anderson’s Five by Five military science fiction series. He had some problems with the story, Retribution, and requested extensive rewrites. Now that I knew what he was looking for, I wrote another story, Goliath (included in this volume). But I still had Retribution, and wanted to figure out what to do with it. So I wrote two more novellettes concerning Exploration Command and came out with Exodus: Tales of the Empire: Exploration Command. The anthology did quite well, from what a couple of well known professionals told me as well or better than some of their anthologies. It was rated 4.6 on Amazon, and 4.17 on Goodreads. So I decided to do it again, this time with tales of the capital city of the Empire. Two of those stories bogged down and I thought I would put that one on the back burner and work on this one. There will be other anthologies in the future, and a couple of standalone novels about events in the early Empire. Constance will be the first novel, about the Imperial Cousin, Fleet Admiral Constance Romanov, and the rebellion she fomented that led to her becoming the Empress Constance the Great, and, by the way, the Empire actually becoming the free society it is by the time of Empires at War.
And now a small description of the stories included in Beasts.
The Mountains: Two explorers looking for a rumored ancient facility on the planet Everest, home of the largest mountain range in the known Galaxy, run afoul of some of the local predators.
The Hunted: A young man on the planet Congo, the home of the largest contiguous swamp in known space, betrays the mob. With the help of his family of swampers he must hide from mob killers in the home of much more deadly forms of predators.
What’s Eating You?: Lucille Yu reports to the Other Universe Project, an experimental station charged with opening holes in space/time and peering into other dimensions. Sometimes these other realms peer back, with hunger.
A New Life: Cornelius Walborski is working on getting ahead on the Core World of New Detroit. One of his jobs is leading hunts on the local duke’s estate, dealing with wealthy buffoons who control too much power in his society. A hunt goes wrong and he loses everything. Can the frontier be the start of a new life for Cornelius and his wife?
Goliath: In a sparsely populated system with little defense comes a Ca’cadasan superbattleship, twenty-five million tons of killing machine. What can one small frigate do to save the inhabitants of the planet?
The Deep: On the frontier world Lemuria something rising from the ocean deeps is wiping out ships and coastal villages. Not all is as it appears, and not just the frontier world is at risk from something that could grow to threaten the entire Galaxy.
And now the excerpt, this one from The Hunted:
“Every second we waste, Mr. Deveroix, the little shit is getting further away.”
“OK. Then let’s get him.”
Deveroix still had a bad feeling about this whole thing. He was a city boy, coming from a core world. He had only come here because it offered an opportunity to move up in the organization. Even though it was a frontier world, it was still a step up from local enforcer to the chief enforcer of an entire planet. It’s just all of this fucking swamp, this jungle, creeping me out.
The Scout moved ahead, one of the men in combat armor following close behind, then one of his regular sergeants, Francois, wearing a civilian hunting rig. Deveroix was about to step into line, directly in the middle of the formation. He stopped in his tracks as loud hissing rose to both sides of the path, followed by a grunting roar. Death then came rocketing from both sides of the path.
Francois was the first to die, as four tons of carnivore came out of the brush with a hopping leap, jaws open. When the jaws closed they crunched through the chest and back of the man. His mouth opened in a soundless scream, and he was jerked out of sight as the giant carnotrope pulled back into the brush.
The man in the combat armor fared slightly better, in that he survived for a little while. The jaws of his ‘trope closed on his helmet and shoulders, and the man frantically pounded his gauntleted fists on the head of the creature. The ‘trope, this one a mature female, opened and closed its jaws, trying to bite through the armor without luck. So it did what instinct to it to do with any prey that didn’t succumb. Gripping the man in jaws and front claws, it backed through the brush and into the stream that flowed beyond. Pulling the man underwater, it wedged him between a couple of fallen logs. There the prey could die over time, and the predator could later enjoy a tender meal.
The Scout dodged out of the way of the first carnivore, his superior reflexes coming to his aid. Unfortunately, he moved right into the path of the second, which clamped down on his waist and shook him like a terrier shaking a rat. The Scout struck the armored head of the amphibian with both of his hands. They were blows that would have killed or crippled a human, and did almost nothing to the ‘trope. The dagger like teeth sliced through the skin suit and into the flesh below, meeting in the middle and severing the spine in the process.
Deveroix aimed and fired his particle beam rifle at the beast that was tearing apart his scout. The beam burned through the armored hide of the creature with a flash of steam. The creature opened its mouth in a loud, pain filled roar, throwing the body of the Scout away into the brush. From the look of the man, he was dead, and his injuries were so severe that there was no way he could be brought back with what the mobsters had on hand. The creature looked around as Deveroix continued to sweep the beam into its body, its eyes finally locking on the Enforcer and taking a hop forward. It moved about ten meters a hop, a terrifyingly rapid advance. Deveroix kept his beam on the creature, his mind screaming for him to run, and sure that turning his back and fleeing would only lead to his death.
The carnotrope gathered its four hind legs underneath, ready for the next leap, the one that would land it on top of the man. Before it could complete the movement the light went out of its eyes and it fell face forward onto the ground.