Saturday, February 13, 2016

Prologue to Tales of the Wolf Pack

This is the prologue to a tale that has been in the works since long before The Starhawk Chronicles. Originally intended to be a stand-alone series, I later decided to weave it into the larger fabric of the Starhawk universe, setting it twenty-five years prior. While not a direct prequel, it does set up locations and scenarios that take place in those later tales.

I'm think of releasing the first book in the series as a serial, and seeing how it goes from there. If it does well, then I will tell the complete story of Earth's war with the Harkonian Empire.

Like I don't have enough on my plate already...

 At the far edge of Earth’s solar system, just beyond the range of its early warning sensor net, the Harkonian attack fleet waited.
Admiral Grystall Strygar watched the activity outside the bridge of her flagship Imperial Crown, but there was not much to see. From this distance, Earth’s sun was a mere point of light in the dark void of space, only slightly brighter from the millions of stars surrounding it. The ships of the fleet around her flagship were mostly settled into their final positions, with Imperial Crown at the spearhead of the formation. The most movement came from the few sentry ships making runs around the fleet’s perimeter.
From behind her, the soft—one could almost say stealthy—footsteps of her first officer alerted her to Captain Trag’s approach. A moment later, his reflection appeared as a ghostly image in the clearsteel viewport. He stood in silence behind her, waiting for her to turn and acknowledge his presence.
Strygar waited almost a full minute before turning, letting her subordinate sweat a while longer. “Your report, Captain,” she said, keeping her voice glacially cool.
As she completed her turn, she caught the ever so faint glare of hatred in his eyes. It was not unexpected. She knew Trag despised being second-in-command to a woman. While he had been given command of Imperial Crown in reward for his exemplary service in the Harkonian starfleet, the ship would never truly be his while Strygar retained its services as her personal vessel. The fact that a female outranked him, Strygar knew, irked him even more.
He is a pit viper, she thought, as she met the steely gaze of his golden eyes. Let down my guard for a moment around him and he will sink his fangs in.
The look disappeared as their eyes met, and Trag straightened, all business now. He cleared his throat, averted his gaze and spoke.
“All ships stand ready, Admiral,” Trag‘s voice had a grating rasp that reminded Strygar of shards of glass grinding together. “The Nova Prince reported a slight fluctuation in her engine core manifold sensors, but they report the problem is minor and will cause no delay to the mission.” He handed her a datapad and waited in silence as she reviewed its information.
“Very good, Captain,” Strygar handed back the datapad and turned her attention back to the viewport. “And the crews of the Khataraa cruisers?”
“All six report ready and await further orders.”
Strygar nodded in satisfaction. The Khataraa cruisers were the backbone of the entire mission. They were tucked safely away at the rear of the formation and would refrain from jumping in-system with the rest of the fleet until the main battle line had broken through the defense net. “Are we receiving the signal?”
His return nod was reflected once more in the clearsteel of the viewport. “We are, Admiral. The signal is strong.”
Strygar stood silent for a moment, letting Trag squirm. He knew what her next order would be, but was duty-bound to stand and wait until she voiced it before carrying it out. If she felt the whim, she could have him stand there all day, waiting. But she would not indulge herself this day. The tasks ahead would be far more pleasurable.
Strygar turned her head slightly to one side, acknowledging Trag’s presence without actually looking at him. “Very well, Captain. Transmit the orders. The fleet will move in exactly one hour.”
Now Trag’s face split with a half-smile that reminded her of a snarling predator. He bowed sharply at the waist, and turned to issue the order.
Strygar watched as he departed, working his way between the ranks of consoles where Imperial Crown’s bridge crew was at work with their preparations for the attack. Her crew, despite what Trag thought. The men, with their bald heads and piercing gold eyes, and the women, with their dark hair no longer than mid-neck length, were all hers to control. They would jump at her commands, no matter how trivial; all prepared to die at her will. Strygar would have it no other way. She expected complete obedience to her command.
Loyalty, however, especially with an overly ambitious second-in-command was another matter altogether. Deceit and treachery were rules of thumb in the Harkonian military.
Any concerns she may have had about Trag were put away for now. From the way the Captain was issuing orders, it was apparent that he was just as eager for this mission to start, no matter who was in charge.
The rest of her crew felt the same way. The air of excitement that was coursing through the bridge, indeed, through the rest of the ship, was such a tangible thing that one could almost physically touch it. All were anxious for this mission to begin.
One hour, Strygar thought to herself. In one hour, we will begin to pay the damned Confederation back for the dishonors they have heaped upon us in this war.
She fought to hold back a thin smile as she watched Imperial Crown’s fighter wing exiting from the cruiser’s forward hangar bay. Forty-five fighters strong, the wing quickly maneuvered away from the Crown and joined up with the wings from the other cruisers, settling into a diamond formation in front of the fleet.
Strygar checked the countdown on the ship’s chrono.

In fifty-six minutes, the tide of the war would change.

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