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  One Good Soldier

  ( Separatists - 3 )

  Travis S. Taylor

  One Good Soldier

  Travis S. Taylor

  This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2009 by Travis S. Taylor

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

  A Baen Books Original

  Baen Publishing Enterprises

  P.O. Box 1403

  Riverdale, NY 10471

  www.baen.com

  ISBN: 978-1-4391-3316-3

  Cover art by Kurt Miller

  First printing, December 2009

  Distributed by Simon & Schuster

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Taylor, Travis S.

  One good soldier / Travis S. Taylor.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 978-1-4391-3316-3

  I. Title.

  PS3620.A98O55 2009

  813'.6—dc22

  2009037591

  Pages by Joy Freeman (www.pagesbyjoy.com)

  Printed in the United States of America

  This work is dedicated to my personal hero and big brother, who has been deployed to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, Africa, and elsewhere around the world to defend my freedom to write science fiction books (among other things). Aim high, Chief Master Sergeant Greg Taylor, aim high!

  BAEN BOOKS by TRAVIS S. TAYLOR

  One Day on Mars

  The Tau Ceti Agenda

  One Good Soldier

  Warp Speed

  The Quantum Connection

  The Science Behind the Secret*

  with John Ringo:

  Vorpal Blade

  Manxome Foe

  Claws That Catch

  *forthcoming

  PROLOGUE

  October 31, 2388 AD

  Earthspace, 100,000 kilometers above Orlando

  Monday, 7:40 AM, Earth Eastern Standard Time

  The Separatist Terrorist Attack on Luna City

  "Goddamn, what was that?" General Elle Ahmi was tired of asking that question. The Separatist battle cruiser Phlegra rang with secondary explosions, and warning klaxons sounded throughout the ship.

  "I think we were hit by the moon's mass driver," Captain Sterling Maximillian answered. The mass driver of the Oort Cloud facility's moon had fired on them just before they had entered the quantum membrane transport to Earthspace.

  "Damage report?" Elle said impatiently. Still, Sterling was a competent captain and the terrorist general had every confidence that he would get them to their target.

  "I'm still checking. The teleport is operating as planned." The buzzing and popping from the Quantum Membrane Technology (QMT) projection stopped, and the Moon filled the view of the bridge. Luna City twinkled brightly beneath them as the shining metropolis that it was. Glints from Earth and Sol glared off the Luna City domes, through the portals, and onto the viewscreens. The tens of millions of inhabitants of the domes had no idea what disaster was about to rain down on them from space.

  "Well, shut those damned alarms off. We're here." Elle sat back at the empty station behind the captain's seat. She drummed her fingers against the console, waiting for Maximillian's report.

  "Sublight engines are down. We're venting like mad from every seal."

  "Tell me some good news."

  "Uh, yes, General. The auxiliary drive is unharmed, and we can reroute to that one. I'm working it. Propulsion will be up in five, four, three, two . . . there." Maximillian smiled triumphantly.

  "Good. If Aux is all that is left, she'll be going there. All security personnel are to report to that section of the ship and stop that bitch." Elle slammed her fist into the screen of her console, cracking the cover. The CIA agent who had managed to infiltrate the Phlegra had been captured and tied up down in sickbay, but somehow she had managed to escape and was causing all sorts of problems for the terrorist's plans. She had already managed to knock out several key power systems somehow. "Stop her! Is that understood?"

  "Yes, ma'am."

  "Full forward to Luna City. Ramming vector!" Elle ordered. The plan was to slam the ship into Luna City, killing millions of American citizens with one attack. Elle Ahmi's sole purpose for the attack was to kill off a voting district and thereby sway an election—an election for president of the United States of America.

  "Damnit, Jack, I'm cut off. I don't think I can get around to you. That last blast closed off several sections between us," Nancy Penzington warned Commander Jack "DeathRay" Boland. He and his mecha wingman had followed the Phlegra through the QMT transport from the Oort Cloud combat in an attempt to stop the ship and rescue the CIA agent. The hallway Nancy had been going down was completely destroyed, and air was beginning to vent out of it. She had been lucky that whatever had just hit them hadn't crushed her in the process. So instead of being killed instantly, she was probably going to die slowly of hypothermia or from lack of oxygen.

  "Roger that, Penzington. Can you get out of the ship?" Jack pushed his bot-mode Ares-T Navy mecha back up to its feet and looked out of the gaping tear in the ship's hull above him. The Moon loomed overhead, maybe a hundred thousand kilometers or so away. They were running out of time, and Jack had no real, good idea of how to stop the battle cruiser.

  "I don't think so. I think I'm trapped in here." Nancy looked in every direction but could see nothing but crunched metal. The hull of the ship had collapsed all around her, and it would take hours to cut her out with a laser cutter. There was no way that one mecha was going to dig her out in a few seconds.

  "Hold on, we're coming to you. I'll blast you out if I have to."

  "Don't, Boland. I'm too deep in the ship. I did my job. I got some good info on the Separatists' plan. I'm downloading it to you now. I haven't even had the chance to read all of it. You read it and then figure out what to do with it. And don't share this with anyone that you don't trust completely, and be wary even of them. I mean it." Nancy sat down in the corridor, listening to the air hissing through the cracks in the wreckage. She had done her job.

  "That's defeatist talk," Jack said. "Now get your ass up and find a way out of there."

  "Sorry, Jack. I'm stuck here, and my air is running out." She paused for a brief moment in thought. "If you can't stop this ship, you have to get out with the data I just gave you. Now, go. That data is more important than I am."

  "Come on, Jack." Fish pulled her mecha through the gash in the ship to the exterior hull. The Moon continued to loom closer. At their present rate of acceleration, they would hit Luna City in less than a minute. Fish rolled her bot over into fighter mode and throttled toward Earth. Then her blue-force system dinged at her. There were two supercarriers not far from their location. "Jack, I've got two supercarriers Earthward.

  "I see." Jack thrusted his mecha up through the ship and outward into open space, where he toggled his bot back to fighter mode. He paused during the maneuver, only briefly but long enough to look back at the Phlegra solemnly. "Godspeed, Penzington, or whoever you are."

  Jack? DeathRay's artificial intelligence counterpart (AIC) spoke into his mindvoice. The implant in his brain translated the computer's communication direct-to-mind, or DTM, through a quantum neural interface between the AIC and the user.

  Yes, Candis.

  Blue-force tracker identifies the nearest ship as the USS John Tyler. Perhaps it can stop the battle cruiser.

  Right.

  * * *

  "Captain! We've got a major electromagnetic disturbance Moonwar
d, and a Seppy battle cruiser just appeared out of nowhere!" the CDC officer of the Tyler warned the captain over the command net.

  "What the hell?" Captain Westerfeld looked confused.

  "Sir, we're being hailed by the CAG of the Sienna Madira."

  "Can't be. Wally's ship is way out in the Oort somewhere."

  "Well, sir, his security codes validate."

  "Patch him through."

  "CO Tyler, this is Commander Jack Boland of the USS Sienna Madira."

  "Commander, this is Captain Westerfeld. What can I do for you?"

  "Sir, this battle cruiser is on a ramming vector for Luna City, and we can't seem to stop it! I thought you might be able to help us out."

  "Captain," Alexander Moore interrupted. "I have an idea." He shoved the Sienna Madira robot onto the teleport pad. The corrupted AI inside the robot likeness of the great president from Disney World had been under the Separatists' control. But for now it was being jammed by President Moore's AIC temporarily, but that would only hold a few more seconds. When the robot AI broke through the jamming signal, it would most certainly detonate the multiple megaton gluonium bomb hidden within it. Gluonium bombs used the actual quantum mechanical force that held quarks together and were the most powerful weapons developed by man.

  "Agreed." Westerfeld nodded. "Commander Boland. I recommend that you get out of there as quickly as you can. We'll take care of it."

  "Trick or treat, bitch!" Moore said to the AI-driven Sienna Madira robot look-alike.

  "General, the propulsion system is locked on. Even if it was knocked out, at this point our trajectory will still take us to Luna City," Maximillian said, nodding toward the bright silver and blue dome of the great metropolis in the Sea of Tranquility. The captain of the Phlegra tapped a few keys on his chairarm and moved several virtual icons around in his DTM mindview. Then he turned to Ahmi and said, "We should go now, ma'am."

  "All right. Very good. Activate the QMT projector snap-back routine," Elle ordered.

  "Yes, ma'am. Recalling all personnel to original Tau Ceti QMT projection in three, two, one . . ."

  Nancy Penzington, or Kira Shavi, or . . . well, her real first name had been Nancy, at least . . . sat with her back against the collapsed bulkhead of the Phlegra, hugging her knees and waiting for the end. The air hissed by her, and it was getting very cold in the corridor, and she was shivering uncontrollably. None of that really mattered at this point since the ship she was trapped in was about to crash and explode in seconds. She didn't want to die, but she was making her peace with it.

  Nancy, we did our job, her AIC consoled her.

  Yes, we did. And hopefully it will save some lives or do some good.

  It will. Boland will figure out what to do with it. Allison had had the time to read the data when she had finally decrypted it. There was some very interesting information in there, and some contacts that went all the way up to the White House. The data was more important than Nancy or Allison themselves. The data was worth the sacrifice.

  I hope it isn't too big for him.

  He'll figure it out.

  Nancy?

  Yes, Allison?

  I've really enjoyed being your friend.

  Me, too, Allison.

  The ship started popping and crackling around her, and then white light filled her vision. Through the light, she caught faint glimpses of the ship exploding all around her. She braced herself for the pain of the exploding hot ionizing plasma rushing toward her. And she braced for death. . . .

  But death didn't come. A distinct sound of hissing and popping like frying bacon filled her ears, and the exploding ship seemed to freeze in place. Nancy's mind raced with her life's story as she knew that these would be her last seconds to reflect on her thoughts.

  Nancy! I'm receiving an All Hands AIC ping!

  So?

  It is for a recall to Tau Ceti!

  Can you hack it!

  It didn't require a hack. It was an open handshaking call to all AICs on the ship, but you need to be prepared for escape and evade.

  Damn right!

  The exploding ship on the other side of the bright light filling Nancy's vision vanished from her field of view as bluish flashes of stars popped in and out of her sight. The high-energy cosmic rays from the QMT transport passed through her body mostly without any interaction, but occasionally one of them would affect the electrodynamic properties of the atoms in the aqueous-humor liquid of her eyeballs at speeds faster than the speed of light in the liquid and therefore generating Cerenkov radiation. The characteristic flashes of blue light then impinged on her retina, with the outcome being as if she were "seeing stars."

  Then, as quickly as the exploding Separatist battle cruiser had vanished, it was instantly replaced by the inside of the QMT transport facility in orbit around Tau Ceti just inward of the orbit of the planet Ares. The electromagnetic whirlwind around her subsided abruptly, leaving Nancy sitting and hugging her knees on a large pad with over sixty Separatist battle cruiser crew members including the captain of the ship, a dead doctor, and several dead, mangled, and injured crew members. Near the center was Elle Ahmi in her trademark stars and stripes ski mask. The sight of the evil Separatist general refreshed the fear of the torture Nancy had gone through less than a half hour before. The remembered feel of those cold black leather gloves caressing her naked body and then slamming into her face made her shiver with spite and hatred for the woman. The residual pain and memories of the torture drugs they had used on her fueled a rage deep insider her. Oh, yes, Nancy was going to get that bitch one day. One. Day.

  The crew quickly started scurrying about and dispersing, and Nancy stood and rushed purposefully off the pad amidst several soldiers who had materialized near her on the QMT pad. Two men just to her left were battered and bloody, and one was applying an organogel patch over the other's missing arm. There were several cries of pain across the pad. The mass-driver round that had struck the ship, the two mecha pilots, and Nancy herself had inflicted some damage to the battle cruiser before it was evacuated, and clearly there had been casualties. The teleport pad was in chaos, and that worked to her advantage. Nancy still hadn't figured out how they had teleported all the way back to Tau Ceti without bringing the ship. But there were more urgent thoughts on her mind—like getting the hell out of there and staying alive.

  "Hey, you!" A bloody man in orange coveralls lying on the deck pleaded for her attention.

  "What?" Nancy turned to see more clearly that the man was holding his stomach, which was ripped completely open. Blood trickled from his mouth.

  "Help me," he said faintly. "Oh God, help me."

  She paused for a moment and scanned around her. Someone would help him eventually. Shit, she thought. That might be too late for him. Some other time she might have to put a bullet between the guy's eyes, but right now wasn't that time. The right thing to do was to help. Shit!

  "Medic!" Nancy yelled and then tore the bottom half of her shirt off and stretched it out in her hands to see if it would be long enough for a bandage.

  Allison, what do you suggest? Her AIC used the visual information from Nancy's eyes as recorded through her brain from a DTM link and analyzed the damage to the man. His large intestines were clearly loosened and falling out. There was a bloodied red and dark gray jagged metal shard penetrating through his left side and out his back.

  Other than getting the hell out of here, Allison started, don't touch the metal object in him. Let a doctor remove that. Carefully put his body parts back in and bandage it off.

  Hell, I knew that. Got anything more?

  Not much you can do without the proper equipment and supplies.

  Okay.

  "Hold still." Nancy undoubled the torn piece of shirt and slid it underneath the man's back. The slight movement made him scream in agony and fear. "Focus. Try to relax your breathing. You're gonna be okay. I'm Nancy. What's your name?"

  "Alan," the man said faintly. Blood gurgled from his lips each time
he tried to speak.

  "Nice to meet you." Nancy reached into his abdomen and began placing his intestines back in gently. At one point she had to actually push hard to arrange them in place. Alan screamed again. "Listen, you have to help me here. Hold your hands here until I can tie this off!"

 
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