Thanks to the folks at Del Rey UK, here's an extract from Dave Bara's Impulse. For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe.
Here's the blurb:
Lieutenant Peter Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy believes he has his future clearly mapped out. It begins with his new assignment as an officer on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound, a Lightship bound for deep space voyages of exploration. But everything changes when Peter is summoned to the office of his father, Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane, and given devastating news: the death of a loved one. In a distant solar system, a mysterious and unprovoked attack upon Lightship Impulse resulted in the deaths of Peter’s former girlfriend and many of her shipmates. Now Peter's plans are torn asunder as he is transferred to a Unified Space Navy ship under foreign command, en route to an unexpected destination, and surrounded almost entirely by strangers. To top it off, his superiors have given him secret orders that might force him to become a mutineer. The crisis at hand becomes a gateway to something much more when the ship’s Historian leads Peter and his shipmates into a galaxy of the unknown -- of ancient technologies, age-old rivalries, new cultures, and unexpected romance. It’s an overwhelming responsibility for Peter, and one false step could plunge humanity into an apocalyptic interstellar war. . .
The long walk down the hallway to my father ’s office at the Admiralty had never seemed so endless. The only other time I had been here was three years ago, when I’d been told the news that my older brother Derrick had been killed in action. It was not a pleasant memory.
I pulled myself together one last time, hoping I looked presentable in my Quantar Royal Navy uniform. I hadn’t even taken the time to shave. My father ’s message, when it had come, had been short and to the point.
Get here. Now.
I had grabbed my cap and uniform and rushed out of the navy barracks, hoping to catch the 0900 base shuttle across New Brisbane to the Admiralty. I shouldn’t have worried. Outside I found a ground car waiting to take me to a private flyer. From there we had streaked across the New Briz skyline, weaving between the skyscrapers with our emergency flares lit, with me trying to squeeze into my uniform inside the cramped two-seater aircar the whole time.
The call, coming just a day before I was due to be commissioned on Her Majesty’s Spaceship Starbound as the ranking senior lieutenant and chief longscope officer, had me concerned. It couldn’t possibly be good news, and I could only hope that it wasn’t as disastrous as the news of my brother Derrick’s death only three short years ago.
The pair of guards at the door to my father ’s office faced me as I approached, ceremonial swords snapping to attention in acknowledgment of my arrival. The guard on the right sheathed his sword and pivoted, opening the door in advance of my entrance, then held it open as I passed through into the office reception area. I nodded to acknowledge the guard as I passed, then headed straight for the desk of Madrey Margretson, my father ’s secretary.
Madrey had been in my father ’s service for more than a decade, and I’d grown used to her pleasant smile and warm hugs during our infrequent social visits. She stood immediately as I came in, meeting me well in advance of her workstation with a worried look on her face. She waited until the guard had closed the door again before she began speaking, her tone all business.
‘There’s something going on, Peter. Something serious,’ she said. ‘Your father ’s been in a conference with Admiral Wesley since before 0500. They’ve raised the alert status of both the Royal and the Union Navies in the entire system to maximum readiness.’
‘Over what?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know,’ she admitted, practically whispering. ‘But I do know Starbound’s christening has been cancelled and she’s been put on a twenty-four-hour launch clock as of 0800.’
‘Is that what this is about?’ I wondered aloud. She shook her head.
‘I don’t know. My instructions are to see you in immediately upon your arrival. I’m not privy to the rest.’ She pulled and tugged at my navy blue uniform, trying to take out the creases, and brushed it with her hands to clear off any lint. She ran a hand through my mussed black hair to smooth it and then took a step back to give me one last look when her office com chimed. ‘He knows you’re here,’ she said. ‘You’d best go in.’ She went around behind her desk and buzzed me in, the massive wooden double doors popping open as I stepped up.
‘Be careful, Peter,’ she said to me, so quiet I could barely hear her.
‘I will,’ I replied. Confused and more than a bit nervous at her tone, I stepped through the office doors and into my father’s office.
Grand Admiral Nathan Cochrane of the Quantar Royal Navy sat behind his enormous redwood desk, his back to me as I entered. The face of Vice-Admiral Jonathon Wesley, Supreme Commander of the Unified Space Navy, was projected onto the longwave plasma viewer taking up most of the back wall. From the look of the room behind Wesley he could only be calling from his navy office on High Station Quantar, hanging five hundred kilometres above us in geosynchronous orbit. Wesley’s gruff voice was magnified by the longwave and tinted with a heavy New Queensland accent. It filled the room as I came in and sat down on a sofa placed against the back wall facing the screen, I hoped out of range of the viewer. I could see my father ’s bald head sticking up just over the top of his office chair. From what I could glean they were in deep conversation about some sort of particulars regarding postings.
‘. . . and then that should do it, Nathan. How long until you make the announcement?’ asked Wesley.
‘No point in waiting, Jonathon. I’ll announce it via longwave to the cadet classes at noon,’ my father said. Wesley nodded twice, then looked up at me.
Not quite out of range, I thought.
‘I see your son has stepped in. Time to get down to business,’ Wesley said.
My father swivelled his chair just far enough to catch my eye, then gestured to one of the two chairs facing the front of his desk. I walked over and sat down, fully aware of the fact that I was on duty and my father was my superior officer. I waited for him to speak or react, and started to grow anxious as the silent moments passed. Something was very wrong.
Finally he swivelled around to face me. His desk was by far the largest I had ever seen, and my father was every inch its equal. Wesley’s oversized image peered at me from over my father ’s shoulder. I felt like I was in a fishbowl.
My father pulled off his old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed deeply at his eyes. When he pulled his hand away I could see his eyes were puffy, with deep red lines running through the whites. I’d only seen him look this way once before—when my brother had died. He reset the glasses, the silver of the wire offset by the white-tinged hair at his temples. I tried to remember what he had looked like with a full head of hair, but found that I couldn’t summon the memory.
He looked down at his desktop and then up to me.
‘As you may have guessed, son, there’s been some news,’ he said. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. My father took in a deep breath, then exhaled.
‘There’s no real way to soften this, Peter, so I’ll just come straight out with it. There’s been an attack on one of our Lightships.’ I felt a lump forming in the pit of my stomach.
Admiral Wesley cut in at this. ‘What I’m about to tell you is classified, Lieutenant,’ he started, then paused, clearing his throat roughly. ‘Five days ago two shuttles from HMS Impulse were on a First Contact mission to the Levant system when they were hit by a rogue hyperdimensional displacement wave that went on to hit Impulse herself. The damage was severe. Nine dead on Impulse, ten on the support shuttle and all twelve on the survey shuttle.’ His words struck me like a coil rifle round to the gut. Though Impulse was officially a Union Navy vessel, she was manned almost exclusively by Carinthian Navy personnel. The survey shuttle, however, would have been manned by officers from the Quantar Navy.
‘All twelve?’ I asked, looking to my father and then back to Wesley. ‘Our First Contact team?’ Wesley nodded, a grim look crossing his face. I swallowed hard. Natalie Decker, my first and only girlfriend, was a member of Impulse’s First Contact team. She’d left only six weeks ago to join the crew of Impulse. But there could be a chance—
‘I’m sorry, son, Natalie Decker was on that shuttle,’ my father said, cutting through my last, faint glimmer of hope. The knot in my stomach tightened even more. I leaned forward, elbows on my knees, and covered my face with my hands, fighting back tears.
Natalie and I had become close, perhaps closer than we should have allowed during our time at the Union Navy Lightship Academy. It had started innocently enough, studying in groups during late-night cramming sessions, expounding together on ethics in small group discussions and finding we had much in common. Then one night it had been just the two of us, alone in the dorm study lounge, and a long conversation about missing our family and friends back home had ended in kisses. From there, though we were always discreet, things had taken their natural course to greater intimacy. We found ourselves making time and space to be together while always keeping our training and duties foremost. She was my first lover, and I hers.
And now she was gone.
‘Unfortunately, Peter,’ came my father ’s voice, ‘there’s no time for tears.’ When I looked up, my father had regained his composure and sat with his hands folded on the desk. I wiped my own eyes clear and met my father ’s gaze.
‘Yes, sir,’ I said, then took in a deep breath and let out a sigh. ‘Understood, sir.’ My father nodded at me, pride evident in his grim smile. Wesley continued.
‘Since natural HD displacement waves are extremely rare, we are assuming this was an intentional incident, either by an automated system still operating from the last war, or,’ Wesley paused here, ‘an active attack.’
‘Active?’ I said, aware of the implications that state- ment carried with it. ‘The Corporate Empire?’
‘Possibly,’ Wesley acknowledged. ‘We knew when we stepped back out into interstellar space that there could be remnants of the Corporate Empire of Man still out there. This incident seems to have confirmed our worst fears.’
I thought about this. What I knew of the Corporate Empire was mostly from history classes. It had formed out of a loose coalition of planets controlled by merchant trading companies that started as a voluntary association, grew into a more formal government where participation by new colonies was encouraged with incentives, then finally became a force that was too powerful to contend against. It had grown to control nearly a thousand worlds at one point, but it was difficult to manage, and corrup- tion was rampant. A system of royal peerage was insti- tuted as a means of funnelling responsibility through the most powerful of hands. It failed.
Then came the war.
Quantar was one of dozens of worlds that wanted out of the empire. One of my ancestors had even led the movement to form an Interstellar Republic with a constitution. This had angered the pro-Imperial families, who took up arms against the new Republic. The war raged for nearly eighty years. When it ended, at the Battle of Corant, all sides retreated back to their own systems for a century and a half, until the Historians arrived from Earth a decade ago with the gift of Lightship technology. Quantar had agreed to join with Earth and the most prominent of the pro-Imperial families, the Feilbergs of Carinthia, to form the Union. It was a fragile alliance, and never more so than now.
I turned my attention back to the conversation at hand. I wanted to talk about anything but Natalie.
‘Don’t we have defensive protocols for this sort of thing?’ I asked as a way of sidestepping my feelings, my loss.
‘We do,’ said Wesley. ‘Normally. But this was no normal First Contact mission.’
My father cut back in here. ‘Impulse was sent into Levant because our automated probes had detected hyperdimensional anomalies in the system. Her mission wasn’t just contact with the Levant government. She was also on an unofficial mission to determine whether the HD anomalies represented a potential threat to Union ships.’
‘A threat which we have now established,’ concluded Wesley.
I took in a deep breath, looking up at the two men I respected most in my life. ‘I’ve heard Starbound has been put on the launch clock. I want you to know that I and my teams are ready to go out there and face down this threat, sirs,’ I said. My father shook his head.
‘I’m sorry, Peter. There’s still more news, and I’m afraid it won’t make you very happy,’ he said. I braced myself again. What could be worse than this?
‘You won’t be reporting to Starbound, son,’ he finished.
I was stunned. I had assumed we would be sending Starbound out on a rescue mission to Impulse and that I would be on her. I risked a glance up at Wesley, but his face was completely unreadable.
‘But my cadet teams, we’ve been training for two years for this mission—’ I started.
‘That mission can be led by someone else,’ cut in Wesley. ‘You’re needed elsewhere, Lieutenant,’ he stated in a commanding tone. I was having none of this.
‘Where?’ I demanded of Wesley, starting to rise out of my chair. ‘What could be more important than serving on a rescue mission and bringing our countrymen home?’ My father ’s hand on my arm put me back in my chair. Wesley wasn’t my commanding officer, at least not yet. Technically we were still in different services, and I wanted answers, even if it meant pushing the limits of insubordination.
‘There’s no rescue mission, Lieutenant,’ said Wesley flatly. ‘Starbound is going out a week early as a show of force, and your new assignment is critical to the Union Navy.’
I wondered if I was being taken off the line for my own protection. Before I could ask that question, my father answered.
‘You’ll be serving aboard Impulse as the senior Quantar Navy officer,’ he said, snapping me back to the business at hand.
‘What?’ I said. I was struggling with understanding these new orders and the grief of losing Natalie all at once. ‘But I’m barely a lieutenant. You’re putting me in command of our navy’s mission aboard Impulse?’
My father levelled his gaze at me. ‘Things have changed, Peter. Your brother has been gone for three years now. Natalie is gone. The responsibilities to the family and to Quantar have now fallen on you, whether you think you’re ready or not. You’re the only remaining son of the Grand Admiral, the son of a Duke of KendalFalk, a title that you too will someday bear. The son of a man who will soon become the full-time civilian Director of Quantar,’ he paused and let that sink in. He wasn’t due to leave his post at the Admiralty for another year, but now . . .
‘You’ll have to step up, son, that’s all there is to it,’ chimed in Wesley. ‘Impulse lost her XO and senior Quantar Commander on those shuttles. We’re sending you out there as a replacement, to do a job for us.’
‘I don’t understand, sir,’ I said, refocusing on my father. ‘You’re leaving the navy?’
‘To take a political position, yes, son. I have no choice. If this is the empire again, and they are stronger than us, then we have to be prepared to accept that the Imperial system might be reinstated. Quantar needs a leader, and so will our new team of officers on Impulse,’ he said.
‘I thought you said Impulse was still in the Levant system?’ I replied. It was Wesley who answered.
‘Impulse docked at High Station Candle two days ago, Lieutenant,’ he said. ‘Repairs are already underway. You’ll be on her when she heads back out, as the senior Quantar officer aboard.’ I didn’t like that answer at all.
I appealed to my father. ‘My team has been together for three years training for this mission. Training for Starbound. And now, at the last minute, the navy is breaking us up? Why?’ I said.
‘Politics, son,’ said my father. The word made me feel sick, but I held my anger, and my tongue. ‘Word will get out soon enough about the Impulse disaster, and we have to be ready with the proper response.’ I looked to Wesley and then back again. I sensed his hand in this decision.
‘And the proper response is sending the Grand Admiral’s son to save the Impulse mission,’ I stated.
‘Yes,’ my father said. He leaned in toward me with his massive frame, the way he always did when he was making an important point. ‘We have to face the fact that this Union is not strong, Peter. The Feilberg family of Carinthia and ours were at the axis of the old conflicts which led to the civil war and the collapse of the Corporate Empire. We can’t risk that happening again. Remember, it was a century and a half of darkness before the Earth Historians came to Quantar and Carinthia. If they hadn’t brought longwave technology and the Hoagland Drive we’d still be without a peace treaty.’
‘I know my history, Father,’ I said, rather more point- edly than I would have liked.
‘Then you know we can’t risk this new Union failing,’ he said. ‘Your presence on Impulse will send the strongest possible signal that we intend to stay in the Union for the long term.’
I mulled this over for a moment, and didn’t like what came to mind. ‘So I’m to be a political replacement, and the three years I’ve trained to serve on Starbound mean far less than my being seen as working with the Carinthians on their flagship,’ I said.
‘Exactly,’ said Wesley from the longwave screen. ‘I’m sorry, Lieutenant, but considering the situation, you’ll have to grow up much faster than you’d planned.’
‘I’m sorry as well, Peter,’ said my father. ‘I know how much you were looking forward to serving with your friends.’ That was true enough. But now it seemed fate had dealt me a different hand, one to a game I hadn’t even known I was playing.
‘What’s the current status of Impulse?’ I asked, changing the subject again. At least I could find out what I was facing. Wesley responded.
‘Captain Zander has requested a minimum turnaround at Candle. He wants permission to go back to Levant and investigate the rogue HD waves,’ he said. ‘Lucius Zander is a man of many virtues, but patience is not one of them. If his ship was attacked by a First Empire weapon, he will want to take that weapon out. The Unified Space Navy’s top priority is peaceful contact with the government of Levant and protecting the Lightship fleet. Zander is known as a passionate commander, if not a bit of a hothead. His actions once Impulse is back at Levant and he is in a combat situation are something we can’t control. That’s why the new detachment of Quantar officers is so important. Your team’s task will be to shadow him and if possible deter him from his efforts to confront any First Empire weapon.’
‘Our task?’ I sat there in disbelief, my anger growing at the implications of Wesley’s words. ‘Exactly how are we to accomplish this task, sir?’
‘Any way you can, Lieutenant,’ said Wesley. I looked to my father and then back to Wesley’s image on the display.
‘You’re asking us to mutiny,’ I said. Wesley cut in sharp and angry.
‘We’re asking you to put your oath to the Union Navy above loyalty to your commanding officer,’ he said. ‘I’m not pretending it will be easy, but we expect you to protect Impulse, even with your own lives if you have to make that decision. The three ships in the Lightship fleet are all that stand between the Union and the tyranny of the old empire. If Levant is still defended by First Empire technology then we must avoid a conflict, or for that matter even contact, with Imperial elements at any cost. Do you understand your orders, Lieutenant?’
I looked to my father again. He was grim but silent.
‘I do, sir,’ I said to Wesley.
‘Questions?’ he prompted sharply. I shook my head.
‘Good,’ Wesley said, preparing to bring the conference to a close. I interrupted before he could finish.
‘I’ll want some of my cadet instructors with me on this mission, people I’ve worked with and know that I can trust,’ I said to Wesley. I may have been under new orders, but I still had cards to play. Wesley looked aggravated at me for interrupting him.
‘I’ll need names, Lieutenant,’ he said back impatiently.
‘George Layton for one. John Marker for another,’ I said, naming my best helm officer and marine corporal. ‘I’ll need a tech, Brice Devlin should do. Cort Drury from Propulsion, and Evangeline Goolagong as my Intel officer.’
‘Anyone else?’ asked Wesley, obviously impressed with my forwardness.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Jenny Hogan from Astrogation.’
‘No,’ cut in my father.
‘But she’s the best we’ve got,’ I insisted, and it was true. She also happened to be Wesley’s niece.
‘She may be,’ said Wesley over the viewer. ‘But I’ve got someone else in mind for that job.’ I wondered who he meant, but that didn’t stop me from pressing him.
‘So this mission is safe enough for the director ’s son but not the supreme commander ’s niece?’ I said back to Wesley. He fumed in silence, turning different shades of red as he stared down at me from the oversized view screen, but I held my ground.
‘Granted,’ he finally said. ‘I’ll fill the rest of the roster with experienced spacers, Lieutenant. You won’t want for good advice.’ I nodded. There was really nothing more to say.
‘There is one more thing,’ said my father. He slid a box across the table to me. I opened the top. Inside, swimming in royal blue velvet, were two lieutenant commander ’s collar pins. ‘They belonged to your brother.’
They’re giving me Derrick’s stars, I thought.
‘This assignment comes with a promotion,’ said Wesley from the screen. ‘I know it’s a small consolation.’ He was right about that. I shut the box again and stuck it in my pocket, then looked to each man in turn.
‘When do I leave?’ I asked. It was Wesley who spoke again. It seemed very clear to me now who was in charge of this mission.
‘Effective at midnight tonight your commission is transferred from HMS Starbound to HMS Impulse. You have two hours to pack your gear and catch a shuttle to High Station Quantar where you will have a forty-eight hour layover while you wait for transport. From there you will proceed to High Station Candle on the cloud rim and will report to the deck of Impulse, under the command of Captain Lucius Zander, at 0700 hours on twelve•two-seven•two-six-seven-eight. Do you understand your orders, Commander?’ he said. It was the first time he had used my new rank.
I roused myself from my funk and stood, snapping to attention. ‘I do, sir,’ I said. He nodded his response.
‘Now I’ll leave the two of you to finish your visit in privacy,’ he said. ‘Good luck to you, Commander Cochrane.’
‘Thank you, Admiral,’ I said. Wesley nodded to my father and then the screen went to black, superimposed with the seal of the Quantar Naval Linkworks. My father turned off the viewer with the click of a button.
‘I’m so sorry about all this, Peter,’ he said as I sat back down, sinking heavily into the chair, the weight of all that had just happened hitting me hard.
‘No need to apologise, sir,’ I replied.
‘I think there is,’ he said. Silence came over both of us then. I thought about Natalie, about how young and beautiful she had been. I had reconciled myself to losing her to the service months ago once I knew her assignment, but not permanently. Then thoughts of Derrick came. It had been his death in a shuttle accident, training new cadets, that had shocked me out of my immature pursuit of a professional football career and driven my decision to join the Union Navy and the Lightship Program. I had fought hard to get in and made it on my own merit, but my mission now seemed somehow incomplete. I fingered the box with my—no, Derrick’s—commander’s stars inside. I wondered if somehow I had failed him by not making it to Starbound.
I fought off a wave of sadness as I looked at my father. We were both holding back tears as we sat in the quiet of the enormous office. I couldn’t imagine what he had felt, having lost his wife, my mother, to cancer such a short time after the Historians had arrived from Earth. And of course they had both the knowledge and tech- nology that could have cured her, but contact had come too late. Then he had lost his oldest son, the one he had staked all of his hopes and dreams on, and he was left with only me. I wondered if I even came close to Derrick in his mind. By my own measure I didn’t. How could I? I had chosen the life of a second son, filled with sports and games and casual pursuits. Derrick had followed our father ’s path from the day he was born: the duty of a duke’s son, the military and civil training, always focused on what was expected of him. I vowed in that moment, looking at my father, that I would do everything in my power to be the son that he wanted, the son that he needed to succeed him.
Finally my father spoke and broke the silence. ‘These are difficult and complex times, Peter,’ he said. ‘I was just thinking that before the Earthmen came with their technology and their science we led a much simpler life. Things changed so suddenly when I saw the Earth ships approaching Quantar. Our universe was smaller then, less complicated.’
‘Of course, sir,’ I said, unsure how to react. He leaned back in his chair.
‘Those were good times, hopeful. Just you and Derrick and your mother and me. Now there’s only the two of us left,’ he said, looking at me again. ‘I don’t want to lose you too.’
‘You won’t, sir. I promise,’ I said. I meant it down to my core.
My father accepted my promise silently, then he stood and came around the desk to hug me. He held on tightly for several moments before he let me go.
‘Good luck, son. You’re all I have now. I know you’ll make us all proud,’ he said. I knew what he meant by all: all of the family, here or gone, and all the Cochranes of Quantar that had come before me. I took his offered hand and shook it.
‘I will do my best, sir,’ I said, then broke the hand- shake. I acknowledged the conversation was over with a nod, picked up my cap and turned to leave. When I got to the office door I opened it and then stopped to look back at my father. He was sitting behind the desk again, gazing out of the window at the New Briz skyline. The sight of such a strong and forceful man reduced to such a state filled me with fear and anxiety. It’s all on me now, I thought.
I stepped over the threshold without another word and shut the door behind me.