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Defender of the Flame

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Turtan, Inspector of the Cross, defends the flame of hope against the alien menace.
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Defender of the Flame

by John B. Rosenman

Series: Inspector of the Cross

Genre  Sci-Fi adventure

Tags  defender, flame, cross, galactic hero, galactic war, militaristic, emperor, romantic adventure, science fiction, science fiction adventure, aliens, futuristic, inter-species relationships, extraterrestrial, planet, orbit, intelligent life forms, microorganisms, mine, mining, homecoming, space station, art, painting, acrobatics, martial arts, hero, emperor, romantic adventure, science fiction science fantasy, love, romance, black hole, cosmic, God, divine, universe, betrayal, court intrigue, conspiracy, alien sex

Release January 6, 2015

Editor  Christine I. Speakman

Line Editor  Lisa Petrocelli

Cover Designer  Charlotte Volnek

Words  92671

Pages  429 

ISBN  978-1-77127-658-0

Price  $5.95


Back Cover

Escaping the enemy-infested mine on Lauren with his wife Kit/Yani and Sky, Turtan flies toward the First Station where he graduated four thousand years before.   Using Radiants, intelligent submicroorganisms in his brain, he hopes to train cadets to defeat the Cen and ultimately win the war. On the way to achieving this goal, however, he encounters serious problems.

First, after passing through Atlas, a black hole, they enter a new or unknown part of the universe with no clear way back.

When they do manage to reach the First Station, Turtan not only finds love and adoration, but a cruel killer.

And everywhere he finds dark secrets, betrayal, and worst of all . . .

FAILURE as again and again his efforts to train cadets result in tragedy. It seems there is no hope for humanity and we are doomed. Can’t anything save us at all?


Excerpt

Chapter Five

Home or Bust

At his first sight of the distant Academy, Turtan felt as if someone had seized his heart and squeezed it. His eyes filled with tears, and he felt unspeakable joy and longing.

Thanks to viewport magnification, he soon realized how much the Academy had grown. It must be five times larger than when he’d known it. But then memory was so unreliable. Surely, though, Secuna hadn’t been red and angry. What had happened to it? He was certain it had once been a beautiful green planet everyone on the station, including lowly cadets could visit not only for tactical exercises but for extracurricular activities. He remembered once enjoying the favors of an eager young cadet in a mimara grove. The girl had been even more lush and fragrant than the flowers.

Though he was days away from his destination, Turtan leaned forward for a better look. Could one ever go home again?

In the next three days, a terrible problem developed. The viewport dimmed, most of the ship’s systems broke down, and Turtan realized he had sat on loose piles of straw with more cohesiveness than this scarred and shaking ship.

The vibrating, wounded craft threatened to dissolve like a giant wafer in water. Doc’s efforts to maintain the ship’s integrity were a losing battle. The question was, could she keep the Argo together long enough to reach the station?

Maybe that wasn’t the most vital question. Even if Doc could, would the station let them dock? Perhaps—irony of ironies—the very Academy he’d graduated from would blast them to pieces before they even got there, assuming his silent, mangled, unidentifiable spacecraft to be an enemy bomb of some kind. After all, in this bloody, terrible, losing contest of a war, it was usually far better to shoot than to take chances.

Dust in the air almost made him cough. He fought down the urge, straightened his shoulders, and squeezed his fists tight on the console before him. Doc said she’d been successful in sending out garbled vid, so the station, which must be enhancing and filtering the feed at their end, should be able to see him, although not clearly. Even if the Argo had no sound, he could have tried speaking anyway. After all, there must be plenty of lip readers on the station. Doc, though, had been adamant. “Under the circumstances, with the sound impaired and the ship damaged and perhaps unrecognizable, there’s a sixty-two point three percent likelihood they will misunderstand you and be suspicious of any attempt to communicate, even in writing. I recommend you just sit and stare and let them recognize you. Sometimes silence is golden.”

Silence is golden. Another of Doc’s idioms. Her calculations, though occasionally strange, usually made sense. So he sat and gazed out the ruined viewport at the station he could barely see, hoping the station could see him. Doc informed him of the approach of two scout ships.

Please don’t shoot. I’m Johnny marching home again. Hey, guys, I’m your favorite son.

Silence is golden. Unfortunately, it gave him time to focus again on his plan’s greatest flaw. Even if he somehow arrived safely at the Academy and convinced its leaders and cadets to cooperate, and even if a sufficient number of cadets miraculously learned to host his dear friends the Radiants…

         

“Where in creation are you going to find Cen hosts for them to practice on?” Over ten billion Radiants answered his thought.

Exactly. Turtan had been acutely aware of this problem. He himself had possessed only Yaneta to practice on, and she had been a willing Cen. Beyond that experience, his explanation of what had worked with the Cen soldiers in the mine on Lauren would go only so far with willing Cross cadets. An attack plan of this magnitude and delicacy demanded live Cen subjects to practice on if there was any reasonable chance of Cross success.

Feeling a twinge of arthritis in his left leg, Turtan forced his worry away. Oddly, this new affliction was a memento of their successful passage back from Nowhere with a pouch carrying ultra-quarks. Logically, there was no reason his hunch should have worked. The Synthesizer was not being used to pass through a black hole; instead, it contained a hundred million ultra-quarks in its belly when Doc swung the ship around and fired it up again. Yet, against all reason, the method had succeeded.

But at what a cost. The Argo had shaken, rattled, rolled, and emerged from the strange, uncharted galaxy, universe, or whatever it was, weirdly transformed and disfigured. To quote Doc, it looked like it had “Gone through the Devil’s ringer.” Somehow she had then managed to use the Synthesizer to shoot through Atlas, a raging maelstrom of a singularity which they had passed through before, only with mad and inexplicable results. This time the passage was successful, and Turtan and his companions emerged from the suspension chamber to find they had actually arrived where they were supposed to be. The universe was familiar, the galaxy was familiar, the planets were familiar, and they were mere days from their objective.

Despite Turtan’s wishes, Kit/Yani and Sky stayed out of sight in the ship. Turtan had argued that even with garbled vid, two women would reassure station security and improve their chances of being welcomed. Doc demurred. “Two strange females and a man who pretends to be you in a monstrous mystery ship appearing unexpectedly from nowhere. Better keep it as simple as possible. Trust me, you don’t want to know the odds against it.”

According to Doc, the scout ships had reached them now and stationed themselves on both sides. Turtan exhaled in cautious relief. No, they probably wouldn’t fire and risk hitting each other.

“They’re trying to com us,” Doc said. “I can’t make out the message, but I can guess what it is.”

“So can I,” Turtan whispered.

“It’s like a buzzing. Here it comes again.”

Turtan waited. After a minute, the ships eased closer.

Doc said, “They want us to follow them in at their pace. What’s your pleasure, Skipper?”

“Keep ’em happy.”

They continued on, flanked by their escort.

“View it as an honor guard. Hopefully, we won’t all be shot.”

Turtan smiled. “How long till we reach the party?”

“Forty-five minutes, give or take.”

His left leg gave a twinge. Damned arthritis. He gazed out at the station and resisted the impulse to wave.

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