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Victory Conditions
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Victory Conditions

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Author: Elizabeth Moon
Publisher: Del Rey, 2008
Orbit, 2008
Series: Vatta's War: Book 5
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Military SF
Galactic Empire
Space Opera
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Synopsis

Elizabeth Moon’s thrilling Vatta’s War series, featuring the no-holds-barred space-faring heroine Kylara Vatta, has secured her reputation as a master of first-rate military science fiction. Now Commander Vatta is back–locked and loaded and ready to win the fight against the marauding forces of ruthless space pirate Gammis Turek.

For Ky, it’s not just about liberating the star systems subjugated by Turek and defending the rest of the galaxy’s freedom. There’s also a score to be settled and payback to be meted out for the obliteration of the Vatta Transport dynasty . . . and the slaughter of Ky’s family. But the enemy have their own escalation efforts under way–including the placement of covert agents among the allies with whom Ky and the surviving Vattas are collaborating in the war effort. And when a spy ring linked to a wealthy businessman is exposed, a cracked pirate code reveals a galaxywide conspiracy fueling the proliferation of Turek’s warship fleet.

Matching the invaders’ swelling firepower will mean marshaling an armada of battle-ready ships for Ky to lead into combat. But a violent skirmish leaves Ky reeling–and presumed dead by her enemies. Now, as Turek readies an all-out attack on the Nexus system–a key conquest that could seal the rest of the galaxy’s doom–Ky must rally to the challenge, draw upon every last reserve of her strategic skills, and reach deep if she is to tear from the ashes of tragedy her most decisive victory.


Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Ky Vatta glanced around the table at the captains crowded into her office. It still felt a little unreal, but here they were, all waiting for her to say something: Argelos and Pettygrew, there from the beginning; Yamini, who had been Argelos’ military adviser and who now captained the stealth observer they’d captured from the pirates; Ransome and Baskerville, the two surviving captains of Ransome’s Rangers; Major Douglas of Mackensee Military Assistance Corporation, assigned as MMAC’s liaison to her. His assistant, Master Sergeant Cally Pitt, seemed quite at ease standing in a corner.

“Our main problem, as I see it, is that we’re always reacting to Turek,” Ky said. “We don’t know much about him, what his goals are—besides killing people and getting power—and we can’t understand any of the transmissions we’ve overheard. We’ve got to find a way to get better intel.”

“Mackensee might share data with you,” Major Douglas said. “If you don’t mind me butting in.” He smiled at Ky.

“I don’t mind,” Ky said. “Before we go into jump, would you like to ask them about that?”

“You particularly want information about their language, any history anyone can dig up, is that right?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind knowing where they are right now, where they’re going next, and in what force,” Ky said, grinning.

“If we knew that, we’d be hauling mass,” Douglas said. “All of us. But I can ask if any of our linguists know the language. You gave them copies of the transmissions, right?”

“I did, yes,” Ky said. “And another thing . . . I know I need a staff structure. We talked about that before, but with over forty ships to command, I need something now, before we get to Cascadia.”

“Think any of those privateers will give you trouble?” Argelos asked. Ky was mildly amused to find that the former privateer no longer considered himself one of them.

“I doubt it,” Ky said. “Aunt Grace sent them; she’d have checked them out.”

“You don’t just need a staff,” Douglas said. “You need a combat control center. You can’t command forty ships from the bridge on this one—it’s too crowded, and it doesn’t have the right communications setup. Your shipboard ansibles are an incredible advance, but they can’t do everything and they are bulky.”

“My office—”

“Isn’t adequate,” Captain Yamini said. “I agree with Major Douglas. Running the additional communications cables in here would be next to impossible, and they must be shielded cables. You’re talking over forty ships now, and maybe more if the Moscoe Confederation sends ships from Cascadia. That’s a lot of equipment, not just for communications but also for scan, if you’re to have the data you need during a battle. I don’t know how you’d get one in this ship—you’d have to practically rebuild it, I’d think—but then you’ve told us it needs serious work anyway.”

“On our ships, the CCC is built in when the hulls are laid,” Douglas put in. “But I understand that some systems have modular CCCs that can be retrofitted to vessels. We don’t, but maybe they can do that at Cascadia.”

“Before we go FTL, we should ask Stella that,” Ky said, adding another line to the list in her implant. A long list, now, since she had heard about the Slotter Key privateers on their way to Cascadia, turned down Mackensee’s offer of a commission, and accepted the suggestion of a liaison to travel with her. In a few short hours, her little group would leave the Mackensee’s headquarters world and head for Cascadia Station . . . and she would have to be ready, when they arrived, to take charge in reality as the commander she had hoped to become.

“We’ll have two jump transitions on the way,” Argelos said. “Do you want communication there, or not?”

“They’re both just waypoints, aren’t they? Uninhabited systems?”

“Yes. But the ansibles are up in both right now. We might find out what’s going on—”

“Good idea,” Ky said. “We don’t want to delay more than we have to, but stripping bulletins from ansibles doesn’t take long. Everyone should do it, so you can each run your own analysis and we can share. Intership communication only by onboard ansibles, no matter how close we are.”

Her deskcom chimed; Hugh Pritang’s code. “Yes, Hugh?” Ky said.

“Last load’s coming aboard here, Captain. Last for Sharra’s Gift is a half hour out. Bassoon’s complete. Mackensee’s Traffic Control officer has given us a priority departure slot in two point five hours. Next after that’s at three point five. Thought you’d want to know.”

“Thanks, Hugh,” Ky said. To the others, she said, “We’d better get with it, hadn’t we? I’d like to take that early slot, so this meeting will have to be short.”

For another hour, they hammered out the organization of skeleton staff, to be filled out once they arrived at Cascadia, then dispersed to their various ships. Ky made the calls courtesy required to the Mackensee officers who had assisted them, sent databurst messages to Stella, Grace, and Rafe, and then went to the bridge as they undocked and headed out toward the jump point.

Nexus II, Headquarters of InterStellar Communications

Rafe Dunbarger, acting CEO of InterStellar Communications, looked at the monitor in the central control room of ISC’s detention center. The man in the security cell looked older than his official years and very tired. All the gloss of wealth and power had leached away, leaving his face exposed, the dissatisfaction and ambition clear to see.

“You sure you’ve got everything?” Rafe asked his new internal security chief.

“As sure as we can be. His implant was coded to self-destruct if removed, of course, but we were able to block that and examine it. Downloaded everything we could. And before we took his implant, we’d done a full panel, ’cept what you’d told us not to.” Faint regret colored his tone.

“I have my reasons,” Rafe said.

“I’m sure, Ser Dunbarger. Not arguing, just saying.”

Rafe watched the man on the monitor shift his weight on the narrow bed. Now came the question, the final question at the end of all the data collection. What to do with the man who had destroyed his childhood and much of his adulthood, who had separated him from his father, who had schemed and plotted and finally attacked his own mentor, Rafe’s father? Who had contrived the killing of Rafe’s sisters, the death of his surviving sister’s husband and child? He surely deserved death, but . . . what death could encompass his crimes? And what about legal procedures?

He’d made discreet inquiries, and the answer came back that it was ISC’s problem. The government didn’t want a noisy, embarrassing, expensive trial any more than he did. They wanted the problem removed.

“He’s a hundred percent liability,” he’d been told. But he’d been told that about himself, when it wasn’t true. Was it ever true? The man had intelligence, talents, charisma . . . he had earned the trust of the Board, of Rafe’s father . . . could he have been, in some way, as misunderstood, or at least as complex, as Rafe?

“Would’ve been easier to kill him that first day,” Gary said.

“True.” Rafe sighed. No matter what he did, leaving Lewis Parmina alive would be too dangerous. The man was a threat, not only to him and his family but also to ISC, Nexus, and the new alliance. In the heat of his early rage, he could have enjoyed killing the man himself . . . but now his stomach churned at the thought.

“You going to tell him?”

“He expects it,” Rafe said. “He’s not stupid.”

“They always hope,” Gary said.

“I’ll speak to him,” Rafe said. He wasn’t sure why he felt that he must, but he knew if he didn’t he would regret it forever.

“Not without a guard,” Gary said.

“No,” Rafe said. “I’m not stupid, either.” Gary grunted, and Rafe grinned at him. “And not you—I’ll take whoever’s on duty in the section.”

It was only a short walk to the guard station at the entrance to the block of cells. He let the guard open the cell, and then followed him in. The guard stepped to one side, stun-rod ready.

“Enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” Lew Parmina said. His gaze flicked to the guard and back to Rafe’s face. His smile widened. “Still the scared little boy, are we?”

“Cautious,” Rafe said, keeping the edge out of his voice. Mild interest, no more. “You might take it as a sign of respect.”

“Not from me,” Lew said. He put his hands behind his head; the guard shifted slightly, watchful. “Having fun with the company? I left you a few surprises . . .”

“As much as possible,” Rafe said.

“My family?” Judging by the sneer on his face, he didn’t really care about them.

“Are fine,” Rafe said. He waited a predictable two beats.

“No conjugal visit before the end?”

“She refused,” Rafe said. Parmina’s wife had done more than refuse; she had gone into...

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Moon


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