The Battle of Phobos Series Comes to its Epic Conclusion With WARSONG: Codettas.
The long wait for the finale to the Battle of Phobos book series is over. WARSONG: Codettas is out now.
Originally planned for release over a decade ago, WARSONG: Codettas finally completes “The Battle of Phobos” saga. “We know fans have been wanting to see how this story ends for ages, and we’re honored to pick up the torch and finally get this book into their hands,” said writer James Wylder.
In the far future, a splintered humanity has reached the point of no return on the divisions between them, and now war between these fractious groups is inevitable. Over the skies of Mars, the biggest conflict in humanity’s history is about to begin, and the choices of Wilgress, Hallard, and Higen will make all the difference.
WARSONG has its origins in Decipher’s WARS TCG, whose setting and story were created with the help of New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Stackpole (X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, I, Jedi). The stories and characters have continued on from it, with the support of a devoted fanbase. Following the series' publication under Arcbeatle Press, the Phobos series has been rereleased with WARSONG: Preludes and WARSONG: Stretti, before concluding with this latest release.
This final volume features novellas by the esteemed Hugo Award Finalist and Locus Award Nominee Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Predator: Eyes of the Demon, Shortcut), WARSONG veteran Sabrina Fried (A More Civilized Age, WARSONG: Stretti), and James Wylder (Cwej: Down the Middle, 10,000 Dawns), as well as a short story by Michael Robertson (Goblinpunk, Cwej: Down the Middle).
“I’m excited for everyone to finally see what happens to these characters. This book has all the action, excitement, emotion, and intrigue people have grown to love from this series. We can’t wait to tell even more stories in this world," Wylder said.
WARSONG: Codettas is now available to purchase from Amazon in paperback and ebook formats.
UK Ebook: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0CC9VD778
You can read or download the story below, and pre-order WARSONG: Codettas by clicking HERE!
The Great Technician Kaguya, by James Wylder
"If you go to any areas not listed on your itinerary, you will immediately be taken down by snipers."
Well, always nice to have a friendly greeting. Au Kaguya just smiled and nodded.
"You should be honored to meet our employer," the armed man said.
"I am, of course." Not that she knew who she was meeting in the slightest. The job listing had simply listed requirements, a salary, and a cypher. She'd solved it, sent her resume in, and had promptly gotten a request for an interview. She wouldn't have even gone if her mother hadn't badgered her about it. Yes mom, I'm still at home. No mom, I haven't found a job. Yes mom, I should have gone for a Masters degree you're right.
Now that she put some thought into it, the options seemed pretty limited: Secret Operations for CiSyn on Earth, or the Government of Mars. Or Gongen. Whatever they were calling it now.
Or, the Yakuza. She wasn’t sure how she’d feel about serving the Ebon Gate.
She sighed, and man looked her up and down as the train car jostled. She could tell he was disappointed in her level of dress. What had he expected; that she'd come wrapped in a yukata, hair and makeup done up like it was New Years? She was here to interview for a job, so a yellow turtleneck and slacks would do just fine. The man kept blathering about all the security measures that would kill her if she slipped up on protocol, so she moved her eye to activate the visualizer in her glasses, and scrolled through social media till they go too far into the facility for the signal to carry. After that, there was another hour, giant doors slamming behind their railcar. The place was intentionally disorienting, but she could feel artificial gravity under her feet, something that took either a lot of experience or a lot of research to notice. That wouldn't be necessary on a normal train, it meant the thing had a functional grav drive in it, that could propel it at speeds fast enough for space travel. And it confirmed one of Kaguya's suspicions: this train was going straight down, deep below the surface of Mars. That she felt like she was going horizontal was an illusion.
This was the kind of place that liked its smoke and mirrors. Duly noted.
Finally, right before the nearly empty train pulled into its stop, noise canceling headphones were placed over her ears, and black hood was pulled over her head. She could feel a person's hand guiding her, not the man in the train with her, these fingers felt different, and she held tight, getting jerked along till she felt the hand pull away and the hood whipped off of her face, the headphone pulled off from the back.
Kaguya was standing in the center of a series of gray monoliths, a blue light shining from a panel on the face of each one. Other than that, they were smooth and featureless.
"Princes Kaguya, so the fable goes, came from the moon. As I understand it, that is true of you as well, Ao Kaguya."
A light came down on her from the ceiling, illuminating her like an actor.
"That is true, sir or madame...or...am I speaking with Shocho?"
The lights flashed.
"That is correct."
She bowed deeply, "It is an honor."
"That is correct."
She'd expected something odd, but not for Shocho. She didn't entirely trust it, the most powerful Artificial Intelligence every constructed. Connected to every aspect of life on Mars. She let out a deep breath.
"Recite your story to me, Kaguya. Of your name."
"I'm sure you know it, Shocho-san."
"Correct. But I wish to hear your telling of it."
She coughed, "Yes, alright then, uh, the tale of Technician Kaguya..."
* * *
Earth, the Exclusion Zone, 2381
"Please make sure your partner's hazmat suit is secured tightly, ZIR Tours is not responsible for death, cancer, or any other ailment related to improper suit usage," the tour guide said over the intercom, then more quietly, "...or anything else really."
Kaguya hadn't wanted to come, but her mother had insisted, so here she was risking her own wellbeing in order to walk through a carefully prepared part of Tokyo that the CGC allowed tours through. Her partner, a man who she'd already forgotten the name of, checked her suit, and she returned the favor. Everything seemed to be in order, and as the whole armored bus finished signaling they were ready, they were let out of the airlock two by two.
They were on a sun-faded street, a canyon of disheveled sky scrapers crawling at the base with abandoned cars. They walked along a carefully cordoned path, and she looked into the wheeled vehicles windows they passed. Cups sat abandoned in their holders, their liquids long abandoned. A child's doll lay on it's side, plastic eyes staring eternally into the seat back. It almost seemed too on the nose: she got it, this was a tragedy unlike any other, the individual human cost had been immense. Now let her go back to the hotel and read before bed already. She'd probably be enjoying this more if her body had reacted better to the training and medicine to prepare her for Earth's higher gravity--she had felt exhausted the whole trip, a never-ending headache betraying even her ability to sleep.
"...When the nuclear disaster that devastated Asia in 2071 hit Tokyo, residents were hit by the radiation without warning. Of course, this was only one of a number of tragic events involving nuclear energy in the history of the island of Japan..."
She could see a pair of sneakers in the window of a shop, they were totally white from the long sun exposure, but the more shaded picture behind them showed they'd once been blue. The history intrigued her less than these individual stories, the lives of the people who had walked these streets. Had someone stood here, admiring these shoes just as she was?
"...Many of you are descended from the evacuees who moved from Tokyo to Mars--"
"Gongen!" someone in the back yelled.
"...Mars," the tour guide gritted her teeth, Kaguya knew she'd never be allowed to say the G-Word on a CGC sanctioned tour. "I myself am descended from a Tokyo resident who chose to stay here on Earth, moving to San Paulo. But we're all united in our common ancestry, and our mutal ties to this land." The tour guide finished her prepared speech with a certain tiredness that expressed a deep wish that no one would try to fight her on things she'd lose her job if she disagreed with."
The man in the back began to speak again, but Kaguya turned and shook her head no. He stopped. Pursing his lips with a bow of his head.
The relieved tour guide continued their journey, and it struck Kaguya for the first time that this wasn't her home. Her body barely was able to function here in Tokyo, but more than that, she didn't feel the connection her mother had hoped she would. She felt bad for her ancestors who had died here, but the ones who lived had brought her to red-soil beyond these skies. With every step, she felt more and more hollow. Earth had emptied from her, and all she wanted to do was go home. To where her family was.
Where she belonged.
* * *
"You may not come from the moon, but you come from the stars Kaguya. You have been looking up wherever you are, and have never found your place."
She stuck her hands in her pockets, "And you believe you can give me that place?"
"I believe that you will find that place yourself when given the chance."
A short pillar rose from the floor, and with a small frown of confusion, Kaguya stepped up to it. The only thing on it was a nametag.
"Lead Technician Ao Kaguya"
She picked it up, "That's a very interesting job title, Grandfather."
"Your name is a legend, but the times that will come soon will birth new legends, frightful and wondrous, and as they come to pass I will need hands. Hands that are familiar with some of everything, hands that will be loyal and can help create a glorious future for Gongen."
She ran her finger across the embossed nametag, "...I think this could be my destiny to be here, in this room."
"Then you accept?"
"If you answer one question. The way you're talking, I always heard Shocho talked in a very forthright and analytical manner. So why do you talk to me of legends with glossy words?"
There was a pause, the red light flashed. "Because my child, I have lived a long time. And I have many ways of speaking. I simply chose the manner that would be most effective towards bringing you to my cause."
"But you had already concluded this."
"This simply re-enforces your suitability for the job."
She picked up the nametag, and pinned it on, "Alright then, Grandfather Shocho, when shall we start?"
The light flashed again, as though it were an excited child, "Well then, Moon Princess, let us see if you live up to your name. I will be sending you to Deimos."
She raised an eyebrow, "There's nothing on Deimos."
A hologram appeared, and as she investigated it, her eyebrow only raised further. "I see you've been busy."
"The work, Technician Kaguya, has only just begun. Things are merely under construction."
She nodded, she'd remember that phrase. "Fly me to the moon."
Read the story here:
The Battle of Phobos Series Comes to its Epic Conclusion August 27th With WARSONG: Codettas.
The long-awaited finale to the Battle of Phobos book series is finally here with the new book WARSONG: Codettas. Readers have been waiting for the conclusion of the three intertwined stories of Jack Wilgress, Rogan Hallard, and Higen Orochito for over a decade now. “When the series started back in 2010, I never guessed I’d be the one shepherding it to its finale,” said range editor James Wylder. “I was just an excited fan at the time, so its an honor to bring it to its conclusion.”
This final volume takes the build up from the previous books, Preludes and Stretti, and hammers it to a climax. In the far future, a splintered humanity has reached the point of no return on the divisions between them, and now war between these fractious groups is inevitable. Over the skies of Mars, the biggest conflict in humanity’s history is about to begin, and the choices of Wilgress, Hallard, and Higen will make all the difference.
Codettas features an exciting line up of talent, featuring novellas by the esteemed Hugo Award Finalist and Locus Award Nominee Bryan Thomas Schmidt (Shattered Shields, Infinite Stars), WARSONG veteran Sabrina Fried (A More Civilized Age, WARSONG: Stretti), and James Wylder (Cwej: Down the Middle, 10,000 Dawns), as well as a short story by Michael Robertson (Goblinpunk, Cwej: Down the Middle). “Working with Bryan Thomas Schmidt on this book was a dream come true, and his prowess as a writer and editor really made these stories shine. I think readers will find something special with this one,” Wylder said.
WARSONG has its origins in Decipher’s WARS TCG, whose setting and story were created with the help of New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Stackpole (X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, I, Jedi). The stories and characters have continued on from it, with the support of a devoted fanbase. The Phobos series began in 2010 from Grail Quest Books, before moving to Arcbeatle Press in late 2019. Since then the series has been rereleased in new editions before continuing to its conclusion. “It's been a long road,” says Wylder, “but this final volume makes it all worth it.”
WARSONG: Codettas will be released August 27th. Digital Pre-Orders are available now, while the print version will be available on day of release.
Pre-Order Here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CC9VD778
Cwej: Down the Middle is set to be rereleased as three smaller volumes, from publisher Arcbeatle Press.
“We want to make Cwej: Down the Middle as accessible and affordable as possible for our readers,” explains project supervisor James Hornby. “The separate volumes will allow readers to jump into whichever arc they’re interested in, without missing the details prevalent to their understanding,” adds editor Hunter O’Connell.
Down the Middle follows the adventures of Chris Cwej, a former companion of the Seventh Doctor from BBCtv’s Doctor Who, now embarking on his own journeys through the universe with his very own mischievous companions, Larles and Kwol.
The three volumes feature stories from writers such as Simon Bucher-Jones (Doctor Who: The Death of Art), Jeffrey Koval (EverymanHYBRID), James Wylder (WARS, 10,000 Dawns), James Hornby (UNIT), and the creator of Cwej, Andy Lane (Doctor Who: Original Sin) alongside many fresh voices.
“These ‘arc editions,’ as we internally call them, are meant to attract an audience which would otherwise be intimidated with Down the Middle’s size and wish to start smaller,” O’Connell says. “We look forward to seeing a new readership experiencing these incredible stories for the first time, in a whole new way.”
The first volume, Living Memory, is set to be released 27 July, comprising the stories from A Bright White Crack to In the Loop. Dying to Forget (from Ring Theory to The Eternal) and Uprising (from The Ursine Brood to the finale) are to follow in September and November. Further updates on the series’ future are to follow soon afterward.
Full disclosure: I tend not to thank my loyal readers enough. Mostly because, like my disillusionment with long series’ being milked dry, I think more is less and less is more for thanks and showing appreciation. It will mean a lot less if I keep saying the same thanks time and again, while showing nothing for it. That being said: Thank you all. Thank you thank you THANK YOU.
Every delay, you’ve been patient with. You’ve been there, reading and waiting as we drum up fanfare for the excellent upcoming books. The patience of you all is unmatched, second to none. Every author, every illustrator, every reader. We’re in this together. Thank you.
Now, for the less sentimental (but equally important!) news. There will be many upcoming releases you can look forward to. We haven’t been sitting on them, we’ve been working tirelessly to give a product that we’re proud to share. And we’ve gotten far enough that I wanted to share some of them with you.
Cwej: Down the Middle’s recent reprint has art of Frey the Friend (which we previously mistook for Romana), the online-exclusive Ursine Brood artwork, and individual busts of the characters from the original cover art. The original front and back covers make a return as interior illustrations.
Minor tweaks to the original text were made, such as a few occasions of the singular use of Cwejen being fixed to Cwej, and editing mentions of P.R.O.B.E. to SIGNET, an organization starring in our upcoming series of adventures in the Doctor Who universe. The Aftermath’s title was edited to Aftermath, because I thought having so many titles starting with “The” at the very end of the book was aesthetically unpleasing on the table of contents. Sam’s story is no longer included, as I said previously. This is a volume doing away with drama, and starting fresh.
These admittedly minor tweaks make the book look, read, and feel all the more impassioned. You can pick up a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Cwej-Down-Middle-Hunter-OConnell/dp/B0BYR5F8CP/
Now let’s talk about the hardcover. The exclusive short stories are being wrapped up, which means I must tell you about them and the situation with printing them. If you have bought the paperback, you’re in luck! We’ve decided to collect all the initially-exclusive stuff into a paperback, which will come out at a later date. This as-of-yet untitled mini-collection, internally being called Book 1.5, is for those loyal customers who have already purchased one of the two editions, and want the chance to experience these new and incredible tales.
The hardback collects both Down the Middle and Book 1.5 into a single binding with colored illustrations, but if you’ve already bought the paperback, you’ll still get the opportunity to read the new stories in their entirety. The contents are as follows:
Foreword, by Hunter O’Connell (~5,000 words)
A Message to Panda, by Paul Magrs (806 words)
Burnyard of the Cryptopyres, by Tyche McPhee Letts (~4,000 words)
A Tour of La Kraw el Sol, by Hunter O'Connell (~4,000 words)
Ode to a Broken Appliance, by T Maynard Banks (807 words)
Untitled story, by Hunter O'Connell (~15,000 words)
ALSO: For those on a budget or who have more interest in certain arcs of Cwej than others, we’re splitting them up into three cheaper collections. All with the same content, but more affordable, and for people who want to experience the events in a different way!
Living Memory - All stories from A Bright White Crack to In the Loop. Read about the origins of Chris’ companions Larles and Kwol, how they came to meet, and their first few adventures in space and time!
Dying to Forget - All stories from Ring Theory to The Eternal. Experience Chris Cwej’s more self-contained adventures, from one end of the Totality to the other. His odd jobs for the Superiors are documented here!
Uprising - All stories from The Ursine Brood onwards. The lore-heavy interconnected epic you’ve always dreamed of! Deconstructing and reconstructing each character, over the span of a 50-year space battle.
Once these have been released, we’ll release the five novels of Hidden Truths as separate paperbacks, all to be collected in a huge hardback tome, with colored illustrations. Hidden Truths carries on from the Uprising saga, with Chris picking up the mess he made as more threats Loom than he could possibly fathom…
Finally, I’ll be attending Texas Author Con as a featured guest, autographing books for those who attend. I’ll be selling the books at a 25% discount, so be sure to join me and many other authors of incredible fiction at the Renaissance Dallas Richardson Hotel for the convention, held on July 14th and 15th! Admission is FREE! Here’s the Eventbrite link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/411782651997 See you there!
This should give you a good idea of the direction we plan to take this series in. The audiobook readings are still being figured out, as is the ultimate end of the story. There’s still a lot we have left to do, but we’re constantly chipping away at the little things, and we’re working to ensure a consistent release schedule which we’ll share with you all later. Things are looking bright! More updates to come.
And once again… Thank you!
Cwej: Down the Middle established itself as a unique journey in science-fiction, and now it’s back in a new and updated edition from Arcbeatle Press on March 21st, 2023. Featuring new art, and corrections to the original edition, this is the definitive version of the story. “It’s how I always wanted Cwej: Down the Middle to be experienced,” said the book’s editor and creative force, Hunter O’Connell.
Down the Middle follows the adventures of Chris Cwej, a former companion of the seventh incarnation of the interstellar traveler “the Doctor,” from BBCtv’s Doctor Who, now going on his own journeys with his very own companions Larles and Kwol. “While Chris was always a golden retriever puppy type of character in the past, with pure, innocent, sweet, but very dumb energy, here he’s more like a puppy who was saved from a dog fight. He’s hurt, he’s untrusting. And it will take a long time for him to get back to where he was,” said O’Connell.
These journeys take the form of stories from writers such as Simon Bucher-Jones (Doctor Who: The Death of Art), Jeffrey Koval (EverymanHYBRID), James Wylder (WARS, 10,000 Dawns), James Hornby (UNIT), and the creator of Cwej, Andy Lane (Doctor Who: Original Sin) alongside many fresh voices. Down the Middle focuses on dramatic storytelling, with each tale bringing something new to the book. “Getting to dig into these characters, and push them in new directions while building towards the book’s climax was exciting. It was an artistic collaboration I still treasure,” said writer James Wylder.
This new edition of Down the Middle marks the beginning of more adventures for the character, with further tales on the way. “I'm proud to be part of breathing new life into the book, with its gorgeous new cover by Jacob Keith. The team at Arcbeatle have big plans for Cwej, and it all begins with Down the Middle,” said writer James Hornby.
Cwej: Down the Middle 2nd Edition will be available for print and Kindle on March 21st, 2023 in most territories. Preorders for the Kindle edition are now open, with the print version available for sale on day of release.
Preorders for the Kindle edition are now open, with the print version available for sale on day of release. Pre-Orders can be made at: https://www.amazon.com/Cwej-Down-Middle-Hunter-OConnell-ebook/dp/B0BXS55BRD
Inquiries can be send to email@example.com
Welcome back to WARSONG! We have a new story to get you ready for the upcoming book WARSONG: Stretti, following the Maverick Hellcats! Enjoy.
How The 'Cats Got Their Claw
“The secondary fuel tank is leaking, Cait.”
‘Killer’ Cait Grimalkin, captain of the Hellcats—and currently of the worst ship in the Outer Rim—gave a loud, drawn-out sigh. “Of course it is. We were running out of parts that still worked.”
Dawn, the current pilot, gave a hollow laugh. “We’re down to the bare essentials. If anything else goes ka-put, we’re genuinely screwed.”
“I reckon we should set a course for the nearest space station.” That was Sparks, the navigator, from where she was sitting next to Dawn. “I know it’ll be a pain, but we’re going to end up stranded at best and blown to pieces at worst.”
Cait sighed again. She was fully aware of that, of course, but the last thing she wanted to do was broadcast the fact that the best pirate crew in the solar system was currently sailing a ship that hadn’t been flown since the last century.
It was all a bit of a screw-up, really. The Hellcats’ last outing had gone slightly… wrong, to put it mildly. They’d ended up stranded on one of Jupiter’s smaller moons without a ship. They had to hike across the moon’s surface to try and find help, and finally, after a few days’ wander, they’d come across a spaceship graveyard. Axe Boden and Flameout Jackson, the best technicians on the crew, located the least beat-up ship and got it to fly again.
The ship was a relic from the 23rd century, a tacky, overdecorated Earther affair that Flameout reckoned had been shot down when it flew into Cartel airspace over Europa. The massive blaster hole in the ship’s body was what gave it away, apparently. All five of them had to work together to patch it up. And everyone did a fine job, but the ship had clearly never been that good to begin with. It was cramped and dirty, not to mention its general un-flightworthiness. They decided to name it the Reagent’s Reject, after Gareth Reagent, the corrupt billionaire CEO of one of the many shipbuilding companies of the 23rd century. Not the most catchy of names, but they weren’t intending to keep the ship for very long.
Since leaving the moon, they’d been slowly heading for their headquarters on the space station Themis, but it was still quite a way away, and Cait was beginning to think the Reagent’s Reject would fall apart before they got there. Sparks was right, they needed to find a port or space station somewhere. But that would come with a hell of a lot of embarrassment. And, sad as it is to say: when you’re a group of women pirates, you don’t really need any more embarrassment than what everyone else manufactures for you.
“The Mandrake is nearby,” said Sparks, anticipating Cait’s response. “We can be there in just over thirty hours.”
“That’s not bad,” Axe put in, from underneath the floor grate. She was practically having to hold the fuel cables together with her bare hands. “Her crew isn’t too likely to spread the news of our predicament to every arms dealer who drops by for a refuel.”
Cait struggled to repress a third sigh. “Yeah, you’re right. Set a course for the Mandrake, Sparks.”
Sparks began to set in the coordinates, and Dawn gradually pulled the ship to the left. Everyone else held onto something; the ship’s stabilisers were barely functioning.
“Hey,” said Flameout suddenly. Cait swivelled around in the captain’s chair to face her. “Didn’t Jack say he was making a run to Saturn around this time?”
“Oh, he might’ve done,” agreed Dawn.
“Hey, Axe?” Flameout stretched out her leg and tapped the grate above Axe, who obligingly poked her head up. “You remember Jack telling us he was headed to Saturn?”
“I, uh—I don’t remember that, no,” said Axe.
“Sure you do, it was when we were all—”
“Doesn’t matter,” said Axe hurriedly. “What’s your point?”
“We could ask him to give us a lift to the nearest shipyard, is what I was going to say.”
“No,” said Cait immediately.
Everyone turned to her. “What’s the problem?” said Flameout.
“I don’t really want the crew of the Raider knowing we’re flying this lump of junk. Not if I can help it.”
“Oh, come on,” said Flameout. “This ship’s about to fall apart. I’d rather lose my pride than my life.”
Cait shrugged. “We’d never hear the end of it. I mean, not that Jack’s crew are not nice, but you know what they’re like. They’ll take the piss.”
“You’re probably right,” said Axe.
There was silence for a second. Dawn said, “It’s your call, Captain.”
“That’s right,” said Cait.
They were about half a day’s flight from the Mandrake when Axe, who was the only one in the cockpit, noticed something in the distance.
The fact that she saw it with her eyes was very strange. Normally, in space, the scanners pick up objects and tell you about them. Her scanner didn’t tell her anything about the giant asteroid directly ahead of them.
Axe quickly commed Cait to inform her of the asteroid, before trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with the scanner. It was possible that it had just conked out, like everything else on the damn ship, but a few hours back it had detected a couple of unmanned meteoroid harvesters just fine. Maybe it was the actual asteroid that wasn’t registering?
Which could only mean one thing: it wasn’t any old asteroid. It was a space station.
Axe thought they were rather cool, really. A few years back, someone had the idea to capture large asteroids, hollow them out, install an engine, and turn them into portable space stations. The Hellcats’ HQ, Themis, was one. The Accord, the gang of Maverick overlords who ruled over most of the Outer Rim, owned a lot of them.
Cait came into the cockpit, yawning and rubbing her eyes. “What is it?”
“There’s a space station up ahead.”
“No, we’re nowhere near that yet. This is something else.”
Cait frowned and tapped the scanner. “What’s—”
“Not registering,” explained Axe.
“So the space station is powered down,” said Cait. “Do we know which one it is?”
Axe shook her head. “I don’t recognise it. Not at this distance, anyway. But I reckon it’s one of the Accord’s.”
The look on Cait’s face told Axe they were both thinking the same thing:
What was one of the Accord’s asteroids doing drifting all the way out here?
About thirty minutes later, the Hellcats boarded the space station Wolfhound-3.
Cait had identified it once they’d gotten a bit closer. Axe was right, it did belong to the Accord. Large but nondescript, to the untrained eye it would seem like an asteroid just hanging there in space. That is, until you looked closer, and saw the thrusters attached to its sides and the weapon systems poking out of the top.
The Wolfhound-3 was still not giving off any signal, even at a much closer range, so Dawn had to dock the Reagent’s Reject alongside her manually. The docking bay wouldn’t open, so Dawn tethered the ship alongside the asteroid, and they all spacewalked across to the airlock. It was only a few metres, which was good, because Cait wasn’t convinced the primitive spacesuits from the Reagent’s Reject would be very effective at keeping them all alive.
Still, they all made it inside in one piece. They’d decided to board the asteroid in the hopes that Axe and Flameout could fix it up and they could fly back to Themis in it. It was a much better mode of transportation than the Reagent’s Reject, that was for sure. Plus, if the Accord had lost it, somehow, returning it to them would mean that they owed the Hellcats a favour. And being owed a favour by the Accord is a pretty good ticket to have in your spacesuit pocket.
Once inside, all five of them removed their helmets and attached them to their waists with cord. It was pitch dark. Cait looked around, using the torch attached to her wrist for light. They were standing in the middle of a shiny silver corridor, probably near to the engine room, as there were huge grey pipes lining the walls and ceiling. The corridor was fairly narrow; they were probably in the maintenance sector, a place where the majority of the station’s crew would never have to go.
“We’ll split up,” said Cait. “Axe and Dawn, you find the bridge. It’s that way, I think.” She pointed to the right. “See if you can figure out what happened here. Flameout, Sparks and I will do a sweep and see if we can find any crew.”
There were murmurs of “Yes, Captain” from everyone. Cait took a personal communicator from her pocket and handed it to Dawn, then took out a second one, checked it was working, and replaced it in her pocket.
“Stay on the bridge,” she told Axe and Dawn. “We’ll come and find you once we’ve finished having a look around.”
Cait led Sparks and Flameout through a series of short corridors until they came to the crew’s quarters. This was another corridor, except both walls were lined with closed black doors, four on each side. Cait went up to one of them and pushed on it lightly. Locked.
“Flameout, can you get these open?”
“Sure,” said Flameout. She knelt down next to Cait and took an electronic lockpick out of the pouch attached to her spacesuit. Five seconds later, the door was open.
“Do the others for me,” said Cait, going past her and into the first room. A quick sweep with her torch told her it was pretty standard: plain walls, a cupboard, a wardrobe, bunk beds. Cait went over to the cupboard and opened it. Empty. She checked the wardrobe. The same.
“They packed up their stuff before they left,” she called.
Sparks, who was in the room opposite, replied, “Yeah, same here.”
Cait closed the cupboard and went back out into the corridor. “So what was so urgent that they had to leave the asteroid floating through space, but had time to collect everything first?”
Sparks shrugged. “Maybe it got damaged somehow, and the Accord sent a ship to pick everyone up.”
“But why leave the asteroid? These things cost a hell of a lot. Besides, out here, anyone could nick it.”
“You’re right, it doesn’t make any sense.”
Cait turned. It was Flameout, staring into one of the rooms at the other end of the corridor.
“What is it?”
“I think something bad did happen here.”
“Why?” said Cait, but her question was answered when she peered into the room Flameout was looking into. It was identical to the others, with one slight exception.
On the wall next to the door, there was a tiny, but perceptible, streak of dried blood.
“Here we are,” announced Dawn.
Axe looked around. Well, tried to. She couldn’t see much without the main lights on, although she could tell they were standing in a large space, not the same narrow corridors they’d been walking through for the last twenty minutes. “You sure?”
“Positive.” Dawn walked forwards and Axe tried to follow her footsteps. “See, here’s the main console.” She tapped her fingers against something metal.
“If you say so,” said Axe, feeling her way along the console. “Oh, wait, I recognise some of these controls. Let me find the lights.”
“If the asteroid is out of power,” said Dawn, “you won’t be able to…” She trailed off as Axe pressed a few buttons and the lights came flickering on. “…turn on the lights. Huh.”
“I guess the power was switched off before everyone left the asteroid,” said Axe with a shrug.
“Weird,” said Dawn. “I assumed the Wolfhound-3 had been attacked by Gongens or something, but I suppose not. I mean, if people are coming to kill you, you’re racing to the escape pods, not worrying about conserving power.”
Things were getting stranger by the minute, thought Axe. If the space station had been attacked, that would at least have explained why it had been left in deep space.
Now able to see, she examined the console properly. It was a jumble of buttons, switches, and dials, of all different colours and sizes, stretching all the way from one side of the bridge to the other. In front of it was a giant screen. It was off at the moment, but Axe guessed that when it was on, it showed a view of the outside.
“Axe, look at this.”
Axe turned to Dawn. She was squinting at a tiny screen on the console.
“Station log. It might tell us what happened here.” She looked up at Axe. “It says that the last entry was six months ago.”
“Six months?” said Axe. “That can’t be right.”
Dawn shrugged. “That’s what it says.”
“But why would the Accord abandon an asteroid out here for six months?” said Axe. “If it broke down and the crew needed to be evacuated quickly, fair enough. But then why not send a team to tug it back to Titan? Even if it was destroyed beyond repair, they would have junked it, not left it out here where it could easily drift into Gongen territory.” She paused. “Plus, wouldn’t we have heard about it?”
“Not if they didn’t want anyone to know. They’re good at covering things up, you know that as well as I do.”
“Maybe.” Axe’s eyes drifted over the console. “I think we need to get some intel. Tell you what, you read the logs and see if they can shed any light; I’ll do a scan for any ships nearby that might know what happened here. Maybe Jack Wilgress is around somewhere.”
Dawn raised her eyebrows slightly. “Why Jack Wilgress?”
“Or anyone,” said Axe, refusing to take the bait.
“Shouldn’t we ask Cait if we want to start hailing other ships?”
“Who said anything about hailing them?” said Axe irritably. “I just want to scan for them. Cait won’t mind.”
“Help me get this thing powered up, then,” said Axe.
Cait, Flameout, and Sparks were heading towards the escape pod bay. After finding the blood, Flameout had the idea to check if the escape pods were gone. If they were, then the crew must have escaped. If they weren’t, then either a ship had come to pick them up, or they’d all been killed. Even though Cait had told the others that such a small amount of blood didn’t necessarily point to foul play, she had her doubts.
“What are we going to do if we don’t find anything, Cait?”
Cait turned to Sparks. “What do you mean?”
“Well, are we going to get back in the Reagent’s Reject, or are we going to try and fly this thing?”
“Oh.” Honestly, Cait hadn’t thought about it. “Until we find out what happened here, I don’t think I want to risk flying the Wolfhound-3. Who knows, it might explode the second the engines come on.”
At that moment, the lights came on.
“Huh,” said Cait.
“Must be Axe and Dawn,” said Flameout helpfully.
“Let’s hope my theory about the whole exploding-asteroid thing turns out to be wrong,” said Cait.
They continued to walk down the corridor until a few minutes later, when a hum of electricity suddenly started up. They all paused and looked around. On the wall a little way ahead, a screen switched itself on, and data readouts began to scroll across it.
“There we go, then,” said Cait. “Looks like this rock will be an alright ride, after all.”
Flameout smiled at her, but Sparks pointed down the corridor, back the way they came. “Look.”
Cait turned. A few metres away, a door was sliding open.
“That’s weird,” said Flameout, frowning. “The power outage must have automatically sealed it. I wonder why.”
“Pretty easy to find out,” said Cait. “Come on.”
Cait led them towards the door. Her fingers danced over the weapon at her waist. Slowly, she peered through the doorway.
It was the docking bay. A giant hangar-type room, big enough for one large ship or two smaller ones. It was grey, like the rest of the space station, but the walls were lined with black and white cupboards—presumably for storing tools—and the bay doors at the other end of the room were painted bright yellow.
“Holy smokes,” said Flameout, gaping.
“I know, right?” said Sparks.
Cait could only stare.
It wasn’t the room they were reacting to. It was what was in it.
In the middle of the docking bay was a ship. An enormous ship. It was a beautiful shade of red, but Cait hardly noticed the colour. It had the most magnificent thrusters she had ever seen, a superbly streamlined body, and even what looked like a hatch for a grapple claw. It looked brand new, barely out of the shipyard.
In a word, it was perfect.
“Not often that the captain’s speechless,” said Flameout, elbowing Cait.
Cait ignored her. “I want to get inside that thing.”
“You might want to take a look at this.”
Axe groaned. She was currently flat on her back underneath the console, poking around in its innards. It was some nice tech, but the cables could really do with some TLC. She shuffled out and pulled herself up. “What is it?”
“Well, the station log cuts off abruptly with no indication as to what had happened. So, I decided to take a look at some of the systems data.”
Dawn pointed at the screen. “Internal radiation levels.”
Axe leaned forwards to have a look. The numbers were off the scale. “That’s not good.”
“No,” said Dawn grimly, “it isn’t.”
“What’s causing it?”
“I don’t know. But see how it’s steady, then suddenly jumps really high?”
Axe squinted. “Oh, yeah. When was that? No, don’t tell me,” she said before Dawn could answer. “Six months ago, right?”
“Can you locate the source?”
“I should be able to, yeah.” Dawn pressed a couple of buttons on the console. “Okay, the source is starboard… towards the back… in the docking bay.”
In the docking bay, Flameout had managed to open the mysterious ship, and the three of them were exploring it. As Cait had thought, it was perfect. Way, way better than the ship they had left behind on that moon of Jupiter. It had enough rooms for all of them, plenty of space to store their ill-gotten gains, and an engine that would get them around at least fifty percent faster than any ship Cait had ever seen. Also, it looked brand new, barely flown. There wasn’t a scratch on her.
Cait wondered where the Accord had gotten it. Wherever it was from, it was clearly the only one. The Accord’s ships were the best in the Outer Rim—in general, anyway—but even theirs were nothing like this. Nor had they put any ships like this up for sale.
Maybe it was a captured Earther ship. No, no one on Earth had such good craftsmanship anymore. Gongen, then. Cait still wasn’t sure. She’d never heard of any Gongen having such a good ship.
She was currently examining the storage hold, which was empty, but in her mind’s eye she could picture where she would put everything. We could build a weapons rack over there. That space in the corner is big enough for larger items. She imagined what the ship would be like as hers.
Cait took a few steps backwards until she was back in the main body of the ship, and called, “What do you guys think?”
Flameout, who was poking around in a fuse box, said, “Most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Genuinely. No hyperbole.”
“It’s like nothing else,” agreed Sparks, who was examining the flight controls. “Cait, we need this ship.”
“Hell yeah we do,” said Flameout.
Cait shrugged, a smile playing on her lips. “Well, if the Accord insists on leaving such a nice ship all the way out here for anyone to get their hands on…” She took her communicator out of her pocket and commed Dawn.
“Hey, Captain,” answered Dawn after a few seconds. Her voice was quiet and crackly. “We were just about to comm you; there’s something you need to know.”
“Dawn, listen,” said Cait. “We’ve just found an amazing ship in the docking bay, so what we’re going to do is this: you two come here, then Sparks and I will go back to the Reagent’s Reject and—”
“You’re in the docking bay?” Dawn interrupted her.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” said Dawn. “Cait, you have to get out of there.”
“We just found the internal radiation levels. Cait, they’re off the scale. And it’s coming from the docking bay.”
Cait didn’t reply.
“You have to get out of there. Something in the docking bay is leaking radiation like crazy. We’re all exposed to it.”
“But there’s nothing in here except for the ship.”
“Then the ship is the source. Cait, please. The readings are off the scale. I don’t know how we’re not dead already.”
Cait paused, thinking. Then she said, “You and Axe get back to the Reagent’s Reject and wait for us there.”
“Okay, Captain.” There was a click as Dawn disconnected.
Cait turned to the others. “Did you get all that?”
“What, that we’re all dying of radiation sickness?” said Flameout. “Loud and clear, Captain.”
“What are we going to do?” said Sparks.
Sparks blinked. “I assumed the answer to that would be ‘get the bloody screaming hell out of here right this second’, but apparently not?”
Cait attempted to look apologetic. “Maybe the leak isn’t that bad. Maybe we can patch it up and it’ll be fine.”
Sparks blinked several times and opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish. “Or, we could not do that? Hell, Cait, did you not hear what Dawn said?”
“I’m not leaving a ship like this behind,” Cait told her. “Between this and the Reagent’s Reject, what would you choose?”
“The Reagent’s Reject,” said Flameout without hesitation. “She has her faults, but at least she isn’t bleeding radiation.”
“Yeah, I’m with Flameout on this one,” said Sparks. “I mean, all due respect, Captain, but what the hell are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I’d rather die of radiation poisoning than show my face in that heap of Earther junk,” Cait snapped, a little harsher than intended.
Sparks and Flameout looked at each other like they couldn’t believe what they were hearing. “You mean, you’d rather us all die of radiation poisoning than suffer a little humiliation at the hands of Jack Goddamn Wilgress,” stated Flameout.
Cait opened her mouth but couldn’t think of a reply.
“No ship is worth our lives, Cait,” said Sparks. “Do you know how many times we’ve nearly died for you?”
“Do you know how many times I’ve nearly died for us?” Cait shot back.
“And now you’re going to throw our lives away for a piece of equipment,” Sparks continued, shaking her head. “Ships can be replaced. Even good pilots can be replaced. But we can’t be replaced, Cait. I thought you knew that.”
Cait was silent.
Flameout took Sparks by the arm. “We’re going to find Axe and Dawn and then we’re going back to our ship. Come and find us when you’re ready to act like part of a team again. Or don’t. Whatever. Enjoy your radiation sickness.”
And with that, Flameout and Sparks turned and walked out of the ship, leaving Cait behind.
Axe and Dawn were legging it towards the docking bay when they rounded a corner and smashed right into Flameout and Sparks, who were legging it in the opposite direction.
On the way, Axe and Dawn had passed the escape pod bay and decided to take a quick look inside. It was empty. All five escape pods were gone.
“That settles it,” Dawn had said. “The crew picked up the ship and put it in the docking bay. Then they found out it was leaking radiation. So they switched off the power and got the hell out of there.”
“Presumably that’s why the Accord left it out here,” Axe had agreed. “It’d be pretty embarrassing for them to admit they’d picked up a faulty ship.”
“Not more embarrassing than for us to admit we’ve wandered right onto it.”
That’s what they told Flameout and Sparks, once they’d all picked themselves off the floor. It was only then that Axe noticed Cait wasn’t with them.
“Where’s the captain?”
Flameout and Sparks looked at each other. “On the ship,” said Flameout after a moment.
“The Reagent’s Reject?”
“The ship in the docking bay,” said Sparks.
“What?” said Dawn. “What the hell does she think she’s doing?”
“She wants to fix the radiation leak,” said Sparks. “She really, really wants that ship.”
Axe frowned. “Didn’t you try and talk her out of it?”
“She wouldn’t listen.”
“Flameout, it’s been like…” Axe checked her watch. “Literally three minutes since we got off the comm with you. How much talking did you actually do?”
“It was more like, we said ‘We’re leaving’, she said ‘No we’re not’, we said ‘So you value the ship over our lives’, and then we left,” said Sparks after a few seconds.
“Such a good team meeting, guys,” said Dawn, rolling her eyes.
“She can’t suddenly start treating us like we’re expendable,” argued Flameout. “She’s meant to be our captain!”
“And we’re meant to be her crew,” said Axe. “And a crew can’t just abandon each other if someone gets on someone else’s nerves, or things get said in the heat of the moment. Come on, Flameout. You really just left Cait in a radiation sauna?”
Flameout was quiet.
“I guess we did,” said Sparks.
“Then I think we’d better go and get her,” said Axe.
Honestly, Cait couldn’t blame Flameout and Sparks for getting mad at her. In the moment, she had chosen the ship over them. But she was thinking clearly now.
And what she was thinking was: if the radiation levels were as high as Dawn had said, how come none of them were sick yet?
She could understand if they weren’t dead yet. But they’d be showing symptoms: headache, fever, nausea, dizziness. But no, she felt completely fine. So why was that?
First, she went to the engine room. A brief look told her that everything was fine in there. So she went to the control room to run a systems diagnostic. And…
Nothing. No radiation leaks. No anything leaks. The ship was in tip-top condition.
“If Dawn’s got us all worked up over a faulty reading…” she muttered. But she paused when she saw a blinking blue light to the right of the console; something she hadn’t noticed before. “What are you?” she asked it.
After a few minutes of looking through the computer system, she had her answer.
Axe, Dawn, Flameout, and Sparks arrived back in the docking bay just in time to see Cait sauntering out of the mysterious ship, as if she hadn’t a care in the world.
“You don’t look like someone who’s dying of radiation poisoning,” said Flameout suspiciously.
“Nor do you, funnily enough,” replied Cait. “Strange, isn’t it?”
Axe folded her arms. “All right, Captain. What do you know that we don’t?”
Cait shrugged, the doorway of the ship like a halo around her frame.
“You’re going to tell us that there isn’t a radiation leak at all, aren’t you?” said Sparks with a groan.
“But the readings…” said Dawn.
“At first, I thought the Wolfhound-3’s systems were faulty,” said Cait. “But they’re not. They’re working perfectly. So I had a look around the ship. Engines: fine. Fuel tanks: fine. Everything seemed in perfect working order.”
Axe was beginning to get annoyed. “With all due respect, Cait, get to the point.”
Cait cleared her throat. “It was all in the computer system. The ship is more high-tech than we thought: it’s got a bunch of different defences, half of which I’ve never even heard of.”
“So, what, the ship leaks radiation in case it’s attacked or captured?” said Flameout.
“Not quite,” said Cait. “The ship pretends to leak radiation. It sends false signals to the ship’s instruments to make it think the ship is flooded with radiation in the hopes that it’ll be left alone. Like a poisonous plant, warning away its predators as soon as they take a bite out of it. The asteroid must have triggered it when it brought the ship on board.”
Axe raised her eyebrows. “If you’re right, that is some serious tech.”
“I know,” said Cait. She looked at each pirate in turn. “So, who wants to get their hands on it?”
From the Publisher's Desk:
Now that you’ve learned a little about how the Hellcats got where they are, you’re ready to see more of their adventures in the next volume of The Battle of Phobos book series!
That’s right, preorders are now up for the ebook of WARSONG: Stretti, where you’ll be able to read some amazing tales of heroism, danger, and intrigue, and see how the world and these characters change.
You can read it all when it comes out October 27th.
Grab it at the link beow:
President and Publisher, Arcbeatle Press
October 4th, 2022, for immediate release
WARSONG: Stretti Brings Intrigue and Adventure to Print in October
Arcbeatle Press and Decipher, Inc. announce the continuation of the WARSONG saga with the second volume of “The Battle of Phobos” series, WARSONG: Stretti.
In Stretti, the heroes of Preludes return to face a solar system in crisis, for war is on the horizon between Earth and Gongen (the newly renamed planet Mars). Rogan Hallard, Higen Orochito, and Jack Wilgress each return to face new dangers and make new discoveries. “Stretti is an exciting book, because you’re seeing these characters, and the whole world around them, taken to the brink of disaster,” said range editor James Wylder. “Readers are going to find a more complex political scenario, bigger challenges for each character personally, and even more action. It's everything you want from a sci-fi adventure!” Written by Nathan P. Butler (Star Wars Tales, 10,000 Dawns), Sabrina Fried (A More Civilized Age), and Jim Perry (Bladewielders), the three novellas in this collection continue the story started in WARSONG: Preludes.
The collection will also feature two new epilogue short stories by range editor James Wylder. “With this new edition, we’re able to look not only backwards, but forward at the final set of novellas, and add depth and connections to bring the story of The Battle of Phobos to new heights,” they said.
The world of WARSONG was crafted for Decipher, Inc. by such notable creatives as New York Times bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole and Lord of the Rings artist John Howe and has featured in everything from the WARS trading card game and roleplaying game to original music. Bringing these stories to print is Arcbeatle Press, the publisher of several licensed Doctor Who spin-off book series, new novels, anthologies, and their original series 10,000 Dawns.
WARSONG: Stretti will be available in both print and ebook formats on October 27th.
Preorders are available at: https://tinyurl.com/stretti
You can find out more at arcbeatlepress.com/WARS.
Inquiries can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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