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Lone Wolf Squadron Book 1: Marshal The Stars


Lawlessness in a small desert town, no marshals, and raiders. The wild west in very much alive even in space

Lone Wolf 01 snippet – 


Tardex System, Federation Frontier


Hale trudged along, his dusty combat boots kicking the occasional loose pebble from the stark reddish soil. The hot blue star overhead baked his body, just as it did the parched ground around him. He lifted his broad-brimmed hat so he could mop his sweaty brow. His hand dropped to shove the wadded bandana back into the bulging cargo pocket of his old fatigues.

He glanced back to make sure the gravitic sled still floated a few meters behind him, its flatbed heaped high with chromium-rich ore. His power tools and prospecting gear hung from slings on the sled’s sides. He’d made a good haul this time out. He’d have enough to buy his wife that fabric she’d had her eye on. They’d be able to make his daughter a pretty dress for the seasonal social later next cycle.

Grunting at the increased slope, Hale took the last few steps up and over the ridge. He stopped and frowned. Smoke, thick and black, rose over the next set of hills where the small town of Bright Landing lay.

Out of habit, he drew the long railgun from where it was slung on his shoulder. He checked the charge and scanned the rocky ground between here and where the trail into town led between two hills. Aside from a few scraggly, gray-green shrubs, there wasn’t much cover to hide any raiders who might be watching for support from the outlying homesteads.

Digging into his righthand cargo pocket, Hale pulled out the monocular. He thumbed the switch to power up the magnification and spectrum analyzer. If anyone was hiding out there, he’d be able to spot them with it. Taking his time, Hale scanned the narrow track leading into the pass. He dialed through several versions of the visible and invisible light spectra to see if he could spot any sentries.

He lowered the monocular after a minute and snorted. Why would the raiders put out sentries? They had little to fear from the townsfolk or the hardier and better-armed homesteaders on the fringes of what passed for civilization here on Tardex II. He studied the column of smoke and listened for any sounds of fighting. He heard nothing but the wind blustering past in a hot, dry gust that threatened to whip his hat off his head.

It was likely all over, and the raiders had moved on after taking whatever they were after. They hadn’t hit Bright Landing in a few years, though he’d heard they had attacked some of the other communities on this continent. Usually, they took manufactured goods and recently processed precious metals or gemstones and flew back to their bases beyond the Federation’s borders.

Hale decided to keep going and see if he could lend a hand in putting out the fires and cleaning up the inevitable mess the raiders made to prove they were the alpha dogs in this region. He picked up his pace, the sled humming along behind him. It maintained the preprogrammed interval between it and the controller clipped to his belt.

A half-hour later, he passed through the outskirts of the small town. More than one building in the center of the settlement was ablaze. He heard the shouts of people who were trying to douse the flames. Hale thumbed a button on the controller at his belt, and the sled slid to a halt. It would remain here until he returned to bring it into town to the refinery. There was no need to clutter up the streets with it until things had settled down.

He walked around the corner to see both the Mercantile and the refinery beside it burning. People held fire hoses connected to the central well pumps and were trying to douse the flames. Several others were pulling goods out of the attached storehouse behind the Mercantile, trying to save as much of the precious off-world goods as possible before the flames spread to that building. Realizing that was where his help was needed most, Hale jogged over and lent a hand.

The interior of the storehouse was hot and starting to fill with smoke despite the closed door leading to the Mercantile. He bent down to pick up the first box he saw and rushed to carry it outside to the pile others had begun. He returned for trip after trip alongside the others until the storeroom was empty. They made it just in time; the fire broke through the wall into the storehouse on their last trip. The building became fully involved, with fire shooting from the roof and the windows.

Hale pulled the bandana out of his pocket and wiped off the soot and sweat on his face. He glanced at the woman beside him, who he recognized as the owner of the Mercantile.

“Bette, why’d they set fire to the two buildings they need standing for their next raid? That’s not like the raiders.”

The red-haired woman turned. Her short, spiky hair was singed from fighting the fire and trying to save her goods. “The raiders didn’t come for my merchandise. They came for people this time. When the mayor and a few others put up a fight, they killed them and set the blazes as an example for the rest of us.”

“People? What do they need the people for?”

Bette shrugged. “Who knows with raiders? They took their pick of the people they lined up and just flew off.” The woman stopped and looked up into Hale’s face. “Oh, my God, Hale. I just realized it’s you. They took Addy and Lindy.”

A pit of fiery despair formed in his gut when he heard his wife and daughter had been taken. What had they been doing in town anyway?

“What day is it?” He’d lost track while he was out mining the ore that paid for their homestead.

“Friday, their usual market day. Did you forget?”

Hale shook his head as he scanned the clear blue sky beyond the plumes of smoke. If there’d still been a marshal at the abandoned station, they might have been able to assemble a posse, but the raiders had killed him nearly five years before. He didn’t know what he was going to do now. He could not go after them on his own. That task was out of his league, even with his prior military service with the Etheric Federation.

“I have to go.”

Bette laid a hand on his arm. “There’s nothing anyone could have done to stop them. They killed the people who stood up to them.”

Hale pulled his arm away. “I have to find help. I have to get back home.”

The woman’s puzzled gaze didn’t faze him. He looked at the nearby streets and spotted a hoverbike next to the huge stack of salvaged goods. He pulled the sled controller off his belt and handed it to Bette.

“I’m putting my sled and the ore on it against that bike as collateral. I’ll bring it back in a day or so after I get back from my homestead.”

Bette stared at the dusty controller in her hand and then at Hale. “What are you going to do?”

“Call for help the only way I know how.”

Without waiting for a response, he jumped on the bike, powered up the small gravitic pods on either side, and zoomed into the wasteland. He knew it was a long shot, but there was no choice. He wouldn’t give up on Addy and Lindy. They’d expect him to come for them. They’d know that about him, and he wouldn’t let them down. He didn’t have a way to get off this world, but he knew those who could. Maybe, just maybe, his call for help would be heard by friendly ears.

Chapter 2


Etheric Federation Advanced Pilot Academy


Commander Beau Ward, call sign “Lobo,” juked right, then rolled the sleek fighter in the other direction, looping down at the same time. The complex maneuver had the desired effect; it shook both tailing fighters off his ass.

He smiled as he listened to the cadets’ flight comms. They cursed him in ways they would never have dared do in person, and he was okay with that. His job was to teach them hard lessons. He was acting as the aggressor, along with his wingman, which was flown by a sophisticated electronic intelligence or EI. His wing fell in on his right as he straightened out behind the first of the four student fighters.

“Cover me, Bones. This shouldn’t take too long.”

“Will do, Lobo. The other three are working to come around behind us again.”

“I see them. I’ll be done before they get here. They let one of their number get separated, and now they’re going to pay.” Beau selected one of the training missiles as he achieved target lock on the craft in front of him. Over the comm, he heard the woman in front of him let out a shriek of surprise as the targeting alarm went off in her cockpit.

Grinning from ear to ear, Beau let the missile fly. It raced out from his craft and zoomed after the juking trainee’s ship. He barrel-rolled to the left, leaving her alone with the pursuing ordnance.

When the missile drew within two meters of the target, its nose cone fired a charge that attached two cables to the rear of the training craft. A surge of energy left the capacitor inside the spent missile. The computer on board logged the hit as a “kill” and initiated a full shutdown, leaving the hapless cadet drifting in space in a dead space fighter.

Bones had kept two of the other three busy while Lobo finished off the first cadet’s Yollin wingwoman in a similar fashion. Two down, two to go. These were two of the best of his students. The leader showed particular promise. He was cocky as hell, too, lording his superior flying skills over his compatriots in the training wing all the time.

Time to teach the bastard a little humility the hard way.

“I’ve got Viper. Bones, stay on Pitbull.”

“Copy, Lobo. Should I take the shot if I have it?”

“Absolutely! I don’t want to be out here one second longer than we have to. Let the towing shuttles come out and retrieve them when we’re finished.”

Beau let Viper think he had snuck up behind his instructor for a few seconds before he used his gravitic engines to flip his craft end over end. Even with the inertial dampers, the move nearly wrenched his internal organs loose from their positions in his gut. At the end of the maneuver, he was facing the opposite way.

Swallowing a mouthful of bile, Beau smirked as he gunned his engines and shot past the trainee. The kid was either good enough or lucky enough to avoid the target lock that would’ve allowed Beau to take him out with a low-energy plasma shot.

The training fighter curved away just in time to avoid it. Unfortunately, the turn allowed Beau to slot in behind him, and he had Viper in his sights a few seconds later.

Three times, the trainee pulled a complex series of maneuvers that saved him from his instructor’s kill shot. Over the trainee’s comm, Viper called for his wingman, only to learn that Bones had taken him out.

As Beau settled in behind the kid once more, the trainee repeated the maneuvers he’d used a minute before. “Stupid kid. I warned him about getting into a rut back in the training simulators. I guess I’ll have to show him the error of his ways.”

Beau selected a missile from his weapons list and dialed up the charge in the internal capacitor. An alarm sounded, followed by a female’s voice.

“Commander, you have selected a higher charge than is recommended for this engagement. Should I reset it to normal parameters?”

“Negative. I want him to get more than the usual punishment for stupidity.”

“I must caution you against it, Commander. The increased charge will not just shut down the training craft. It will also likely damage the pilot.”

“I’m counting on it. Just for information’s sake, how much damage are we talking about?”

“The charge level you’ve selected will cause a jolt of pain, and the pilot might temporarily lose consciousness.”

“Perfect. Leave it alone. On my orders, I accept the results of the current selection for the ordnance.”

The onboard EI went silent. The kid had to learn a lesson beyond just getting shot down. He needed to remember this one.

Beau nudged his fighter off its present course to line up with where the training craft would be in ten seconds.

Not waiting for target lock this time, Beau let the missile go, then selected the training comm channel so all the cadets would hear him.

“Viper, you just used the same move twice in a row. You let yourself get caught in a pattern. Too bad you didn’t listen to Daddy.” Beau used the moniker the cadets called him when he wasn’t listening. They thought he was too old to fly fighters anymore. Well, he’d just shown them how wrong they were.

Viper’s ship had started the final part of the rolling maneuver when Beau started talking, so it was too late to do anything about it. The loose missile locked on as soon as he crossed its path, and it jettisoned its charged payload.

Two seconds later, the training craft lit up with a corona of blue energy as the capacitor disabled the ship and the pilot.

“Bones, let’s head back to the training station. The towboats will clean up this mess.”

“Copy, Lobo. Returning to base.”


What do a small town miner and a hot-headed pilot have in common? Find out on June 10th when Lone Wolf Squadron Book 1: Marshal The Stars is released. Available for pre-order now!

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