Authors: Joe Vasicek
Tags: #adventure, #mercenaries, #space opera, #princess, #empire, #marine, #fleet, #science fantasy, #space barbarians, #far future
Stars of Blood and Glory
by Joe Vasicek
Copyright © 2013 Joseph Vasicek.
All rights reserved.
Editing by Josh Leavitt.
Cover art by Lorenz Hideyoshi
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons,
organizations, or events is purely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE LAST FREE STARS NOW
LIES ON THE PATH OF BLOOD AND GLORY.
The princess of Shinihon could not have
picked a worse time to run away. The largest Hameji battle fleet
ever gathered threatens to overrun the last of the free stars. To
make matters worse, a rogue assassin from an unknown faction has
killed the high admiral of the Federation. Without clear
leadership, the war may be lost before she can be found.
But Danica Nova and her band of Tajji
mercenaries are no strangers to lost causes. They've fought the
Hameji before, and they'll fight them again—not for honor, or for
glory, but simply for the pay. War has been their way of life ever
since the diaspora from the homeworld.
Master Sergeant Roman Krikoryan is one of the
few remaining mercenaries still old enough to remember the
homeworld. But he's an old cyborg, and his humanity is fading.
Death is a mercy he doesn't expect to find on this mission.
They aren't the only ones after the princess,
however. Hungry for glory and eager to make a name for himself,
Sholpan's son Abaqa seeks to make the girl his slave. Though only a
boy, he'll stop at nothing to prove himself to his Hameji
With the Federation in disarray, the bloody
end of the war may come too soon for some of them. But one thing is
certain—not all of them will live to see it.
The thought resounded in the girl’s mind
almost as loudly as the high-pitched buzzing in her ears. She
opened her eyes and uncurled from her hiding place just inside the
hatchway, stretching out her cramped muscles one at a time so as
not to fall from her precarious perch in the darkness. Through the
bulkheads, the low groan of metal on metal alerted her that they’d
Swiftly yet silently, she slipped out of the
narrow recess and reached for the smooth metal walls of the ship’s
main water tank. She went by touch rather than sight, feeling her
way over the moist, slippery tiles. The mechanical suction cups on
the palms of her hands caught and held, and she leveraged for
position until she was sprawled out across the inverted surface
like a lizard on the underside of a rock.
The thought, though cold, carried no anger or
malice. If she felt anything, it was only a sense of professional
precision, like a dentist picking out his tools before performing a
complicated extraction. An image of her target came readily to her
mind through the datalink implant in the back of her neck: tall
face, thick black hair, piercing eyes. Subtler details followed:
the sound of his voice, the style of his gait, the twitch in his
forehead when he was stressed. As she crawled upside down toward
the base of the reservoir, she felt almost as if she were on her
way to visit an old, familiar friend.
The girl carefully lowered herself down the
wall, the frame of her skin-suit stiffening to give her added
strength. The water wasn’t particularly cold, but it had a slightly
metallic smell. She reached below her chin and pulled a flap of
thick fabric up over her mouth and nose, breathing into it to
activate the oxygen mask. Satisfied, she took a deep breath and
slipped into the water headfirst.
Even through the skin-suit, the wetness made
her shiver. Ignoring it, she swam to the bottom and felt for the
sluice gate where the floor tapered into the drain. She took a deep
breath of the stale, filtered air to reassure herself that she
A dull groan in the walls told her she didn’t
have much time. Slapping one of her hands against the floor for
traction, she reached with the other to find the manual release for
the grating. The thick metal bars were covered with a light film of
slime, but she managed to find the lever, release the lock, and
pull it aside. It made a painfully loud scratching sound against
the tile floor, but only because every little noise underwater was
amplified in her ear.
A loud click echoed through the duct,
followed by a low rumble. The girl hastily released the suction
cups in her gloves and flipped herself around, hugging her arms
tightly against her chest. She no sooner did so than the drain flew
open and sucked her into its maw.
Her heart pounded as the current sucked her
through the pitch-black tunnel. The duct was so narrow that she
barely had enough room for her arms, even with her shoulders
scrunched together. Fortunately, the cold metal walls were smooth
Her feet struck the grating on the other end
flat on, making her gasp at the force of the impact. Recovering
quickly as the water rushed past her, she tapped her right heel
against the wall to extend a laser-file from the toe of her boot,
which she used to cut through the thick metal bars. She worked with
practiced speed, alternating between bars to keep an even pressure
on all sides, and fastened her gloves to the walls to leverage as
much of her weight off of them as possible. Still, the strength of
the current made it incredibly difficult. She cut through the last
three bars as quickly as she could, then kicked the grating out of
the way and released herself.
Moments later, she found herself floating in
the bottom of a dimly lit pool. She opened her eyes and blinked,
making out shapes through the bubbles. She was only a few feet
below the surface, but the room was still dark enough she didn’t
think anyone had seen her. She waited for almost two full minutes,
breathing slowly through her mask, until she was sure the catwalks
above were empty.
Coming out of the water felt almost like
rebirth. She pulled the mask down and allowed herself the luxury of
one deep breath before crawling hastily up the wall to a niche
where the auxiliary lights didn’t quite reach. Once there, she
waited in silence until the skin-suit had fully shed the excess
water, leaving her dry.
Her heart beat faster now, but out of
anticipation, not fear. She wet her lips and crept forward, past
the main doorway to the maintenance hatch on the side.
The sound of footsteps on the metal grating
of the catwalk made her heart skip a beat. She froze, not making a
sound even to breathe.
What was that?”
Eh? What are you talking
The girl reached slowly to a compact pistol
at her belt. Her muscles tensed as she kept herself perfectly
I thought I heard something down
there. Something in the water.”
It’s probably just your
imagination. Come on, let’s go.”
The footsteps faded until a door hissed shut
beyond the girl’s vision. Just to be safe, she counted to sixty
before slipping out of her hiding place and into the nearest
The datalink provided her with a detailed map
of the station, which she analyzed quickly as she slipped through
the narrow shaft. The network of maintenance corridors would bring
her within three levels of the command center, but less than fifty
meters from the war room. Security this deep was surprisingly
minimal: a couple of cameras and a door lock that shouldn’t give
her any more than a few minutes’ trouble. Her exit would be
slightly more complicated, but with dozens of jump-equipped
shuttles at the station’s various platforms, she had her pick of
It took a little less than ten minutes to get
to the exit point. After double checking the station network to
make sure there weren’t any cameras watching the corridor, she did
a quick thermal scan through the door and palmed the access panel.
The door hissed as it opened, making her cringe at the noise, but
there was no one on the other side. She slipped out and quickly
palmed it shut.
The white-tiled corridor was surprisingly
well-lit. Even with her prosthetic enhancements, it took a moment
for her eyes to adjust. The space was narrower than the main
hallways, but it still felt open and dangerous. She kept close to
the wall and moved swiftly, her hand at the pistol on her belt. Now
that she was deep in the station, adrenaline pulsed through her
She reached a secondary elevator at the end
of the corridor, where it came to a T with a wider one that was
curved so that she couldn’t see further than twenty meters in
either direction. A quick check of the network showed that the
elevator was currently unoccupied. She hastily palmed the access
panel and waited for the elevator to open.
it’s going to be big
this time, I tell you,” her audio enhancements picked up from
around the corridor. “They’re not going to let us off easy
Footsteps—two men, by the sound of it. Within
a few moments, they’d be close enough to see her.
You really think so?” said the
second voice, growing clearer as the speaker came closer. “I don’t
know. This isn’t the first time they’ve threatened to
Yeah, but the latest intel shows
a lot more movement than before. I heard that they’re pulling
forces from as far away as Tajjur and the New Pleiades.”
Come on. You can’t trust
everything you hear. Stars! Who knows how rumors like that get
The two men stepped plainly into view just as
the elevator doors hissed open. The girl slipped inside before
either of them had time to see her and quickly keyed in her
destination, three floors up. The doors hissed shut, keeping her
safely from view.
She permitted herself one silent gasp of
relief as she hastily searched the station network for the command
schedule via her datalink implant. According to the public
schedule, her target would be holding a strategic planning sessions
in—yes, that was it—forty minutes.
The elevator slowed as it reached its
destination, and she kept close to the wall as the doors hissed
open. The corridor outside was empty. She slipped out and stepped
briskly toward the war room, stopping only to hold the palm of her
hand over the access panel as her implants hacked the lock. Within
moments, she was in.
The empty war room was wide and
elliptical, with a vaulted ceiling almost twice as high as the
corridor outside. Giant display screens covered the walls,
streaming video from the exterior of the station so that the girl
felt as if she were alone in a giant observation dome. The starry
band of the galaxy glowed brightly in the depths of space, the
orange-blue wisps of the Good Hope Nebula passing slowly out of
view down by her feet. Directly in front of her, the black
silhouette of the rogue planet opened like a maw of darkness. An
enormous holographic projector sat in the center of the table, with
a dozen plush leather chairs around the edge.
It didn’t take her long to find a hiding
place. Using the suction cups in her gloves and boots, she crawled
beneath the table and pressed herself against the underside,
keeping her profile as low as possible. The frame of her skin-suit
stiffened, allowing her to relax as she settled in for the
She closed her eyes and controlled her
breath. Seconds passed into minutes as reality faded from her
consciousness. She visualized a wide open sky, with an empty
wasteland of rust-red desert stretching all the way to the unbroken
horizon. The memory of the familiar landscape calmed her into a
meditative state. She could practically taste the dust in the air
and hear the whistling of the wind as it passed over the barren