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Wolf Among the Stars

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Wolf Among the Stars

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Author: Steve White
Publisher: Baen, 2011
Series: The Stars: Book 2

1. Eagle Against the Stars
2. Wolf Among the Stars

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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A near-future Earth has shaken off the devastating colonization by alien Lokaran invaders and totalitarian rule by the alien's puppets, the Earth First party. But now Earth is flung into galactic intrigue and war. The Lokaron empire teeters on the edge of a fratricidal meltdown and a cabal of ancient enemies hope to use Earth as a proxy to destroy the empire and rule over a new Galactic dark age.

Now Captain Andrew Roark, the son of heroes of the rebellion and an officer trained in Lokaran space warfare tactics, joins with a highly capable Lokar who opposes the empire but wishes to see it transformed rather than destroyed. Together they must uncover a conspiracy to control Earth, and then obtain the secret key to defeating it. War for galactic control looms, and freedom for Earth--so recently escaped from under the boot-heel of one oppressor--is once again in the balance.



Nathan Arnstein's life was not an especially long one, but it spanned a great deal of eventful history, some of which he himself made.

He was born in 2011, in what still called itself the United States of America, although it had only a few years to go before the Earth First Party would seize power and rob that name of all it had once meant.

He was nine years old when the Lokaron ships appeared in Earth's sky and began dictating trade treaties. His father, a naval officer sidelined by lack of Party connections (and under constant suspicion for being Jewish), was a sympathizer of the Eaglemen, the secret organization of American junior military officers dedicated to the restoration of the Constitution and the expulsion of the extraterrestrials.

He was nineteen years old in the epochal year when the Earth First Party was

overthrown, Earth narrowly saved from devastation at the hands of the Lokaron gevah of Gev-Rogov, and the Confederated Nations of Earth formed.

He was twenty-eight, and a junior officer in the United States component of the new CNE Navy, when he distinguished himself in action against the Islamic jihadist diehards in the last flareup of resistance to the new order.

He was thirty-seven, and one of the rising stars of the CNEN, when he was sent to the planet Harath-Asor to study state-of-the-art galactic military technology at the feet of humanity's Lokaron allies of Gev-Harath. He learned his lessons well, and later thought of applications of them that had never occurred to the self-satisfied Lokaron military establishments.

He was fifty-five, and an admiral, when he settled an old score at the Battle of Upsilon Lupus, annihilating the fleet of Gev-Rogov and forcing a Lokaron power--for the first time in the history of the galaxy's dominant race--to sit across a peace table from non-Lokaron. And nothing would ever be the same again.

He was fifty-nine, and nearing retirement, when he was named to the prestigious post of director of the CNEN Academy.

He was sixty-three when his chief of staff found him with his brains blown out.

"Is the director in, Midori?"

"Yes, Captain Roark. Just one moment, please." The secretary turned aside to make the adjustments necessary to admit even those who, like the chief of staff, had automatic access to Admiral Arnstein's inner sanctum. It gave Andrew Roark a moment to glance through the transparency behind her desk. It was a view that would have been breathtaking even if one hadn't known its history.

The Academy was perched on the edge of the rim wall of a vast impact crater, with North America's Rocky Mountains circling it in the distance. The crater was, beyond comparison, the youngest of its kind on Earth, and the elements had not had time to smooth out its brutal contours. Only four and a half decades ago, in fact, part of the Rockies had stood here: Cheyenne Mountain, in whose depths the headquarters of the United States military had been buried, safe even from nuclear bombs. But not safe from a deep-penetrator kinetic weapon like the nickel-iron asteroid that the Lokaron of Gev-Rogov had accelerated, using a titanic mass driver, into a high-velocity trajectory that had intersected Earth at this point just before dawn on a never-to-be-forgotten autumn day in 2030, decapitating Earth's defenses and inflicting ecological wounds that had taken years to heal. It had been meant to be a mere preliminary to the saturation neutron-bombing that would have left the planet a lifeless tabula rasa to be reseeded for Rogovon colonization. That had been stopped by the Lokaron of Gev-Harath, and by two humans who had nearly died doing it.

Everyone knew all this. But Andrew Roark knew it better than most, for those two humans, Ben Roark and Katy Doyle, had given birth to him four years later.

Afterward, the Confederated Nations of Earth had placed its space-navy academy here, using Lokaron nanotechnology to sculpt the rim wall into terraces and buildings in an architectural style incorporating all of mankind's major traditions, looking out over the crater's floor of congealed magma. Those who studied here could never for a moment forget their service's reason for existence, which could be distilled into two words: never again.

"You can go in, Captain," said the secretary, interrupting his thoughts.

"Thanks." He proceeded through the door to her left and into a short corridor. He had long since ceased to notice the slight tingle as he stepped through the invisible curtain of stationary guardian nanobots. The security wasn't excessive, for the Director was a far more important individual than the commandants of the service academies of the last century had been. In the CNEN, his authority extended to a wide range of advanced training functions in many locales, including the hyper-prestigious Strategic College, through which the elite of the Navy's leadership must pass.

Andrew came to the final door, which slid open as it sensed his genetic signature. The director's private office was a spacious one, understatedly elegant, the walls hung with honors. A shelf to the right bore models of ships he had commanded, including CNS Revenge, his appropriately named flagship at Upsilon Lupus. To the left was a holo-display tank that would have done credit to a capital ship's bridge. Behind the expansive desk, a wide transparency gave an unequaled view of the crater, including the pylon that rose at its exact center, inscribed with the names of those--worthy and otherwise--who had died in the Cheyenne Mountain strike.

Andrew Roark had seen the office a thousand times. Its familiarity explained why a detectable fraction of a second passed before that which was behind the desk registered on his brain, despite the stench of death that immediately hit his nostrils.

Admiral Arnstein still had a pistol clenched in his hand--a standard M-3 gauss weapon, Andrew automatically noted. It used an electromagnetic pulse (not energetic enough to have set off the alarm system) to accelerate a high-density 3mm bullet to a muzzle velocity of 2,000 meters per second with a crack as it broke the sound barrier (not loud enough to have penetrated the soundproofing of the multiple doors). It had a full-automatic capability, but it appeared only one shot had been fired; Roark now saw the hole, with a radiating pattern of cracks, where it had struck the right-hand wall. Unlike the needlelike metal slivers fired by civilian gauss weapons, such a projectile at such a velocity resulted in massive hydrostatic overpressure as it passed through a human head, causing the brain to explode outward, blowing out the top of the skull. Admiral Arnstein was slumped face down on the desk, and Roark was looking directly into such a cavity. There was blood and fallen brain tissue everywhere around the body; some of it had stuck to the ceiling.

Modern medicine, drawing on Lokaron technology, could perform what would have been thought miracles of tissue and organ regeneration only half a century before. But nothing could be done about a destroyed brain. The admiral could, of course, be cloned. But the clone would not be the man under whom Andrew had served at Upsilon Lupus; it would be another man with identical genetic makeup, doomed to early aging and death as a result of having been produced from postembryonic cells taken from an adult body. Such use of cloning was interdicted by both law and custom.

All this flashed through Andrew's mind in a second, before the onset of nausea brought him out of shock. He sternly clamped his jaw shut and said "No!" to his stomach. Then he raised his left arm and spoke into his wrist communicator in a voice whose steadiness surprised him. "This is Captain Roark. Security to the director's office!" Then he stumbled forward, reminding himself not to touch anything. The scene must be left scrupulously undisturbed for the investigators.

He walked gingerly around the desk, looking for a suicide note. There was none. But a little plastic case of the kind used to hold datachips caught his eye. He looked more closely at it: it was marked with a tiny black symbol... and, for the second time since entering the office, he froze into immobility. There could be no mistake: it was a silhouette of a dog... or, more likely, a wolf.

For a few seconds, he thought very hard.

He heard a commotion outside. He reached a decision. He scooped up the case, put it in his pocket barely in time, then smoothed out his features and turned to face the security detail.

Copyright © 2011 by Steve White


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