Thank you so much for the motivation. Every time I found my energy flagging, every time I was tempted to stop pushing on and turn in for the night, I found it incredibly useful to be able to think of you. This isn’t my accomplishment. It’s ours.
A formerly failed science fiction writer
And just to stoke a little more interest in the very successful Forbidden Thoughts anthology, perhaps you will enjoy this excerpt from my contribution to it, which is set in the Quantum Mortis universe.
Lieutenant Colonel Max Kruger stood at attention and saluted as General Markham, SUBCONCOM, debarked from the flyer with the ease of a man four decades younger and strode across the landing pad towards him.
“At ease, Colonel,” the general ordered. “Good to see you. Now, come with me, we’ve got a lot to discuss before the press conference.”
The general had four centims on him and was walking quickly, so Kruger had to lengthen his stride in order to keep up with the taller man.
“The Grkese signed the contract?”
“They did indeed,” the general confirmed. “And the Duke himself selected you as the contract CO, Max.”
“Honored,” Kruger murmured, as expected. And it was true, he did feel honored, although he wasn’t exactly surprised. Of the various officers in the Rhysalani Armed Forces qualified to command low-tech forces, he not only possessed the best record with regards to successfully completed contracts, but he had beaten Col. Thompson, his closest rival, rather soundly at the Duke’s Command Challenge last year. “I presume it will be 3rd Battalion?”
The 3rd Battalion of the Ducal Marines specialized in low-tech combat, particularly combat below TL10. Kruger had served with them on two previous deployments, both of which had taken place on Dom Sevru. The men of 3rd Battalion were trained to be able to fight with everything from swords and shields to plasma cannon and sub-atomic armor.
“No,” the general replied, to his surprise, as they entered the elevator that would bring them down to the heart of the airbase command center. “The Lord General suggested that this would be the ideal opportunity to show the subsector what the 11th Special Battalion can do. And the Duke concurred.”
Kruger couldn’t hide his astonishment. Or his dismay. He looked at his superior in disbelief, and while he saw everything from amusement to sympathy in the older man’s eyes, he detected no sign at all that his leg was being pulled.
“Dear God, you’re not joking!”
“Afraid not, Max. The Duke has spent a fortune training and equipping those women for the last five years, and he’s decided that it’s about time to see a return on that investment.”
Kruger didn’t trust himself to speak. The first five or six responses that sprang to mind would have earned him at least a reprimand, if not a court-martial. The next three, if uttered openly by an officer of the Armed Forces, technically amounted to lèse-nobilité and would theoretically merit a firing squad. So he said nothing.
The general grinned nonchalantly and raised an eyebrow. He knew damn well what Kruger was thinking. “He’s not wrong, Max. Their negotiators were so impressed that they paid triple our usual rate. Half up front.”
“They did? Why the hell would they do that?”
“Well, as I understand the sales pitch, our highly trained female soldiers have proven to be much better communicators than their male counterparts, and as a result they are considerably less inclined to needlessly break things and kill people. In this particular case, the estimated savings in infrastructure damage when taking and occupying the primary objective alone is expected to more than make up for the increased cost of the contract.”
“Assuming we can complete it. What’s the tech level again?”
This time, Kruger couldn’t restrain an oath. The general raised an eyebrow, then slapped Kruger on his oak-leafed shoulders as they approached a door with a pair of Ducal Marines on either side.
“Try to keep it clean for the cameras, Max. If you don’t know what to say, just smile and declare that you’ve got every confidence in the troops. Do your best to sell it. God knows we’ve all had to tell a few humdingers in our day. Your record speaks for itself, so let it do the talking. Now, you’ve got an hour to review the contract and meet with the battalion’s officers before the press conference, so I suggest you hop to it.”
“Yessir,” Kruger said morosely. “Any chance I can get out of this, General?”
“None at all, Max. None at all.”