Sunday night I released the fifteenth volume of my Exodus: Empires at War series, titled All Quiet on the Second Front? It can be found in the US here, and in the UK here. This one deals with the other front in the war, the one in which the genetically modified humans known as the Klavarta are fighting the Ca’cadasan Empire. This front has not been front and center since its introduction in Book 9, and I thought it was time to go back with the next two volumes of the series. It also introduces many of the characters from the Machine War series into the big show. What, you thought I was going to forget them? Not a chance.
The book involves Beata Bednarczyk, newly promoted to grand fleet admiral, being dropped right into the middle of a quagmire of political intrigue, not her area of expertise. Along with dealing with a major Caca offensive, and an arrogant Klavarta commander, she finds herself pitched into an unequal battle against the enemy. Still, Beata has faced long odds before, and she has the resources of the Empire behind her.
Now, on to other things. I am sorry it took so long to complete this book and continue the series. I have been suffering from severe insomnia for the past five months. Anywhere from two to four hours a night, sometimes with an hour or two during the day. Naps also do not come easy, and I have been stumbling around in a fog the entire time. Fatigue, lethargy, depression, lack of motivation and confusion have all been constant companions. I will see my doctor on Thursday, and hopefully she will have something for me that will help. Unfortunately, it will take a little longer to pull myself out of the hole my lack of productivity has landed me in. I started on book 16 on Saturday, right after putting the finishing formatting touches on 15. I will try to get this one out in a timelier manner, as well as other books in series that have been lagging. If I can finally get some regular sleep it would help. If not, then I’ll just have to do as well as I can and hope I can avoid a complete financial meltdown in the meantime. There will still be some repercussions of my illness, and I can only hope that I can get some relief. If that doesn’t happen, I guess the only choice is to soldier on. Thank you to all of my loyal fans and readers for sticking with me. And now, the excerpt.
“We will be moving across the frontier in three battle groups,” said Great Admiral Mrastaran Hlrata, using a laser pointer to indicate the area in question.
The region in question was two thousand light years in width, over a thousand in height. The ends of the frontier actually extended past the linear dimensions of the Nation of New Earth. That star nation was not nearly the size of the New Terran Empire, fronting the other side of the Ca’cadasan Empire. Still, it was over eighteen hundred light years from the frontier to the capital world of that nation. A formidable distance that would take over a month at hyper VII to traverse.
Actually, twelve hundred of that eighteen hundred light years of depth had belonged to the Ca’cadasan Emperor prior to the series of offensives and counter-offensives that had rocked this border of the Empire. For several years the two powers had fought back and forth, but the general trend had been the loss of territory for the big sophonts.
Well, this time we take it back, thought the great admiral, growling low in his throat. He didn’t expect to take it all back in an instant. The great admiral would be satisfied if they could penetrate five hundred light years into that expanse and consolidate it. Another offensive would push further in, and then another. If they could keep up the momentum before the humans and their genenged servants pushed back.
“I will be with the center force,” said Mrastaran, the laser dot touching the system in the center of the frontier, just twelve light years back. He would have a full half of the ships in the offensive, though not that high a percentage of the ground troops. His mission would be to smash everything in his way. Some of the people on the planets ahead of him had been Ca’cadasan subjects, but were fully cooperating with the humans. Therefore, they would receive no mercy. Extermination was what they deserved.
The admiral gave a head motion of negation at that thought. He was an adherent of the old religion, something that brought him much discomfort from his more profane peers. The intelligent officer knew that most of the dogma of the religion was unscientific crap. Still, he had found comfort in it earlier in life, and was not about to abandon the church. He just ignored those portions of dogma which served no purpose. One part that did serve a purpose as far as he was concerned was the sanctity of living planets and the genetic lines they gave rise to. So no, the disloyal sophonts would be punished, but none would need fear for the species survival from units under his command. No matter what orders came from above.
“Great Admiral Tonnasar will lead the left wing,” he continued, looking over at the holo image of the high ranking admiral in question.
Mrastaran had been mildly surprised that the other male hadn’t challenged him. He thought his own combat plan would have worked, but there was never a guarantee in one on one close fighting. The message he knew the other male had received from the Emperor might have had something to do with that. Mrastaran knew that the Emperor’s staff was tired of so many capable males dying in challenges that had nothing to do with victory in a modern space war. Too many intelligent males had died through the ages because some hulking warrior had challenged them to a fight to the death. Mrastaran had listened to one of their scientists theorize that the intelligence of the species had decreased over the ages because of all the deaths of the superior minds of males in challenges. He agreed with their reasoning.
Mrastaran wasn’t afraid of the challenge. He was the unusual male who had both intelligence and had trained himself in close weapon combat. His physical prowess was above average, and his skill with a blade was without peer. Which didn’t mean he couldn’t die to some lucky warrior. That would be a waste. The great admiral knew that he was among the more intelligent males in the Empire, and his loss would hurt the war effort, when his position would be taken by some idiot who couldn’t fight a single ship, much less a fleet.
The left wing would have a quarter of the fleet, enough ships to win a major combat against most other forces. Not enough to beat the enemy fleet by itself.
“Great Admiral Lokastar will lead the right wing,” said the fleet commander as he moved the pointer and looked over at the third ranking admiral, actually present in the chamber. Lokastar was not the most intimidating of males, standing just over two and a quarter meters. He was also one of the more intelligent ones, from a noble family that had left him a lot of money. That had allowed him to buy the protection he had needed, making sure anyone who challenged him met a quick end before the actual combat. Not exactly according to tradition, but the Empire wasn’t about to challenge him for that decision.
The right wing also had a quarter of the fleet, including almost a third of the ground troops, since his area had the greater number of target planets within it.
“We will move as a unit,” he told the other admirals, moving the pointer, his central force moving with it into enemy territory. He did the same with each of the other two forces. “We will stay within twenty light years of each other, with wormhole gates open as soon as we enter a system. That way we can reinforce each other.”
“Why not spread out more?” asked Tonnasar, a confused look on his face.
“Because the humans have shown a proclivity for defeating out forces in detail,” said Admiral Lokastar, making a head motion of agreement. “If we keep our forces together, we can meet them in a decisive battle. Or possibly defeat them in detail, using their own tactics against them.”
“Admiral Lokastar knows the way of it,” said Mrastaran, showing a predatory smile. “Even though our numbers are comparable, the humans have the superior weapons with their numbers of wormholes.”
At least they don’t have as many on this front as they have on the other, thought the fleet commander. That gave him a chance for victory.
“If we can rally our ships in one system to fight one small force, totally destroy them, then move on to the next, we should be able to take out the mass of their fleet. After that we can into Klavarta space and strike at their industrial heart. When we take out those systems, the war is won.”
He really wasn’t sure that would work. They would surely meet him in space with large forces, and not allow him to just roll up systems and small defense forces. He had planned for that, hoping that the Klavarta would try to defeat him in detail. Then he would use his own wormholes to consolidate and strike in a way the enemy had never seen from their foe.
“They have new allies,” said Tonnasar, his holo face grimacing. “The humans from the other Empire were able to work diplomatic miracles and bring more of them on board.”
Mrastaran grimaced himself. He hadn’t been told to expect any forces other than those of the Klavarta and the Imperials that had been lent to them. After all, the Xenophobia of the Klavarta had alienated them from most of the other species in the region.
“They’re really nothing,” said Lokastar, a hungry smile on his face. “Just prey, really. Hyper VI ships, and weapons no better than the humans had a century ago.”
“They might be somewhat better than that by now,” said Tonnasar, an intelligent comment that took Mrastaran by surprise. “The humans have a tendency to give their tech to people willing to fight on their side. They put future problems in the future, where they belong.”
“No matter,” growled the fleet commander, balling up his four fists. “My strategy will still work. We will crush the humans, both types. We will remove this star nation from the playing board, and the humans on the other side of the Empire will face the full might of our military. In the name of the Emperor.”
He still wasn’t sure that the humans on the other side of the Empire were able to be defeated. At least not under the current leadership, with their penchant for rash decisions that amounted to nothing but great losses for little return. Perhaps, if he were in charge, he could turn the situation on that front around. Or maybe not. The war might already be lost on that front, which meant overall defeat for the species. That didn’t mean that he wouldn’t do his all to win for the Empire, no matter how hopeless.
Stop it, he thought, closing his eyes and grimacing. You are going to convince yourself that the humans are supermen. They’re just other beings, with no other destiny beyond their fight for survival, just like us.
The other admirals gave the Ca’cadasan victory salute, lower arms crossing over their chests while their upper arms reached into the air.
“And remember,” he said in a low tone, looking from face to face. “Both of you are to contact me and let me know your intentions before you do anything. Understand?”
Lokastar gave a head motion of agreement, while Tonnasar glared at Mrastaran for a moment before giving the same sideways nod. Mrastaran looked over at the second admiral, wondering if he would have any problems with him. Ca’cadasans could be a headstrong people, and it wouldn’t surprise him if the other great admiral did something stupid in a quest for individual glory. Well, he would have people close to that male, ready to put a beam through his head if need be. No matter what, the glory would belong to one Mrastaran Hlrata. Victory to the Empire, he thought, no matter how undeserving the new Emperor was of such victory. Well, he wasn’t fighting for that little shit, now was he.