Laura E. Reeve, Science Fiction & Fantasy Author, web site of Laura E. Reeve

Major Ariane Kedros #1: Peacekeeper

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Nothing Goes Unpunished

To her partners at Aether Exploration, Ariane Kedros is the daring pilot of their prospecting ship. She is also a reserve major in the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds—accepting mysterious assignments to fulfill her duty.

To the Terran Expansion League, she is a war criminal. Fifteen years ago, she piloted a ship on a mission that obliterated an entire solar system. Those involved in the incident were given new identities and new lives in order to protect them from retribution. No new face or name can wash away the guilt Ariane feels, or chase her demons away.

But now, her government wants something in return. Twelve of Ariane's wartime colleagues are dead—assassinated by someone who has uncovered their true identities. And her superiors in the Autonomist army have placed her directly in the assassin's line of fire on a peacekeeping mission that will decide the fate of all humanity…

The Ideas and How It All Started

What intiated Peacekeeper and the world of Major Ariane Kedros? It all started when I escorted Soviet Union weapons treaty inspectors in 1989 (for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty). When two great powers struggle towards peace, it doesn't mean that old hostilities are laid to rest; they find fertile ground in social competitiveness and economic/industrial espionage. So I started thinking about a futuristic pair of "galactic powers" trying to draw down their own terrible weapons.

The real science fiction part came out of Squadron Officer School, when my wing took heavy casualties (in a simulation) during bombing raids because not enough assets had been put toward reconnaissance to see if previous raids got rid of defenses. I started thinking about warfare across immense distances (after all, space is BIG). What if you set off a terrible weapon, but have to wait 18 years to learn the results? What if peace was brokered in that 18 years? Then what happens when the reconnaissance data finally comes in—can the fledgling "peace" handle it?

 Entire Series


Not knowing what waited for her on the other side, Ariane grabbed a handhold as she opened the door. There was no decompression, so she stepped to the threshold. The slate began alarming in her hand, vibrating as well as flashing red dots.

It felt surreal to look up at the calm green status displayed above the door, then to look down at the slate and see blinking lights and text of "Warning! Oxygen content inadequate! Temperature dangerously low! Do not expose skin!" Readings from the sensors in the slate began to scroll down the right side.

At least the suits were equipped with shrink-to-fit gloves, so she hastily saved the slate's data by a single action of her thumb. Still standing at the threshold, she reached around to flip the emergency disablement switch before stepping all the way into the gym.

The door closed behind her anyway.

She whirled, her breath starting to come faster. She'd toggled the mechanical disablement switch, yet the door had closed. She was beginning to feel persecuted, and those feelings grew overwhelming as the lights dimmed and a text message formed on the back of the door.

"How can you handle the guilt, Ari? Soon you'll have no trouble sleeping…”

"The final treaty's been ratified and we're closing down Naga's TD mission. Can't your employer afford any feeds? Ah." Colonel Owen Edones pulled out a bottle. He opened it, sloshing the dark liquid. "Want a drink?"

Yes, by Gaia and any gods of the Minoans. The amber highlights sparkled and as he poured himself a glass, the sensuous smell filled the cabin. Ariane's mouth watered as she regretfully measured her resolve, and whether she'd lose it with the drink. Ari, other people don't think like that, Matt told her. Every drink isn't a struggle of control or a big decision. They either want it or they don't—if they don't, they decline it. Rationing and rationalizing your drinks isn't natural. But for her, the idea of anyone not wanting a drink was unnatural.

"Shutting down the Naga systems puts you out of a job. No more secrets to protect," she said, trying to ignore the liquor.

That wasn't true. There would always be Ura-Guinn.

"Don't be naive, Major. We could always retrofit the Naga vehicle for kinetic weapons, but that's not our immediate concern. Someone has to ensure the Terran inspection teams depart with the same intelligence as when they arrived. They're still our enemy."

"You intelligence golems love all this intrigue and secrecy, don't you?" She moved backward and sat down in the chair that opposed his desk to get further away from the smell of the liquor.

"You're one of us now, so live with it. Your orders." He tossed her a military-issue slate. "Of all people, you should realize how important this particular treaty is. We've gotten to the crux of Pax Minoica. Fifteen years of dancing about the negotiation tables under Minoan oversight and we finally begin the drawdown of the weapon system that started it all. We're going to start destroying the warheads that damage nous-space-time, if we're to believe the Minoans..." He let his words trail off, leaning back behind his desk. He took a deep swallow of his drink.

"No, of all people, I don't need to be lectured on the dangers of a temporal distortion wave." Her voice was harsh. She thumbed the slate. It contained a copy of the treaty, which she paged through quickly. There were protocols to follow, inspections required by each side to verify numbers of warheads, schedules for destruction of warheads, blah, blah, and blah. She opened the orders next.

At least Owen kept her in-system. Karthage Point was entirely military, under full AFCAW control. Karthage used the L2 point stabilized by Hellas Prime and its moon Hellas Daughter. One of Karthage's missions was testing Naga systems, designed and built on Hellas Daughter. The first treaty under Pax Minoica had curtailed actual testing of temporal distortion waves. Now the test squadron, performing a dying mission, used simulations and tested guidance and targeting hardware without warhead packages. This last treaty finally dismantled the operational squadrons. Karthage also had one of these squadrons, with a compliment of TD warheads, qualifying it as an inspection site under the Mobile TD Weapon Treaty.

"This is different—putting me back into uniform. Why assign me as liaison to the Terran inspection teams?" She looked up to see Owen watching her. "Diplomacy isn't my forte and I'm not familiar with the Karthage facilities. You've got plenty of lackeys that can do this assignment better than I can."

"I have faith in your skills, Major. You can fit in anywhere you want, and be anyone you want."

Yet I can't feel comfortable anywhere, with anyone, she thought bitterly. She leaned back into the plush chair. "I'm thinking of taking Matt's advice," she said. "Maybe it's time to resign my commission."

"Give up AFCAW protection? That would be foolish."

"You mean give up continual observation and control." Her jaw jutted out in challenge, daring him to deny it. He didn't.

The eight Autonomist officers, plus their two security guards, were a vibrant line of color compared to the twelve Terrans. Ariane's uniform was the most conservative, being a black coat edged with light blue, with blue and gold epaulets and stripes about the cuffs. The other officers wore their AFCAW red-and-gold dress coats over black trousers.

The Terrans wore grays, taupes, and other indescribable muddy colors. Their suits stretched tight over their torsos, hips, and thighs, almost looking like one piece of clothing. They wore no obvious indication of rank but the treaty required them to identify inspectors separately from interpreters. Perhaps the black armband identified the inspectors, since the TEBI interpreters Kim and Guillotte wore none.

State Prince Isrid Sun Parmet, however, wore a black armband. As he moved to the far end of the line from Ariane, her gaze followed him, almost mesmerized. He had far more presence in person than on video. He was tall and broad-shouldered without having too much bulk. Most of the Terrans had similar perfection in body symmetry, probably due to their restricted birth program and eugenic controls. Parmet's smooth golden skin seemed to glow. His dark hair had a touch of grey and his green eyes glinted. He gazed at all the AFCAW officers, in turn. Ariane avoided making eye contact, looking away when his gaze rested on her.

The airlock had sealed and there was uncomfortable silence as the two parties faced each other. Ariane leaned forward and looked down the line at Colonel Icelos, who stared intently at the bulkhead wall over the airlock. He was only the Facility Commander. The Wing Commander was stationed on Hellas Daughter and she wasn't attending this first baseline inspection. The commander of the operational squadron, Lieutenant Colonel Jacinthe Voyage, was her representative. Jacinthe only glared back at Ariane and made no move to address the Terran inspection team.

Of course, they wanted the liaison officer to handle this. Wishing fervently to be anywhere else, even the lowest level of hell, Ariane stepped forward and turned to stand between the two groups. Terran heads swiveled to look at her and she had to swallow hard to keep the knot of anger from traveling up from her stomach. These people were the enemy and many had Autonomist blood on their hands—blood of her friends and comrades.

Everyone waited. Welcome to Karthage Point? Those words would never pass her lips, not for a Terran State Prince. Her jaw tightened. I'm Ariane Kedros. I'm too young to carry this resentment. I don't have personal ties to the war.

"Karthage Point stands ready to support the Mobile Temporal Distortion Weapon Treaty." Once her words were out, she felt relief.

"A different jurisdiction may be called for, Mr. Journey." Edones sat up straight and his words became crisp. "But you're assuming that I care about the fair application of civilian justice. In this case, I don't. You've called in the Armed Forces Directorate of Intelligence, yet you haven't connected this to military concerns or uniformed personnel, and this case doesn't fall under the Consortium Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Matt scowled. Edones was trying to scare him with all his big authoritative names. "Ari might be in danger; we should send her a warning," Matt shot back.


"There's no need to keep her location from me."

"Mr. Journey, what hubris! Major Kedros's orders are always classified. We're not trying to hide her whereabouts from you specifically."

"And why are her orders always classified?" Matt demanded. "Look, she might be in danger."

"Why would you think that Mr. Expedition's murder has anything to do with Major Kedros?"

Either Edones was confident that Ari's background would hold together under any scrutiny, or Nestor had been off track in suspecting Ari's records weren't authentic. Matt had belittled Nestor's "shadow" comments, but the seeds of doubt had been planted, valid or not. Matt tried to regroup his thoughts.

"If Ari's undercover, Nestor might have interested someone else in her activities," Matt said.

"She's not covert, in case you think I'm being insensitive. She's on active duty assignment to a military facility, supporting the new TD weapon treaty that we've signed with the Terrans. Why would she be at risk?"

Edones's tone and smile seemed genuine and Matt heard the ring of truth. Growing up on a generational ship didn't make him immune to politics, and Matt had still learned to read people. Something in Edones's answer was a little off; either Edones was playing loose with the truth, or he was holding something back.

"This crime probably has nothing to do with you or Major Kedros. Your friend was dealing with a whole different class of people than you're familiar with," added Edones when Matt didn't respond. "Did you know he was dealing with illicit ruleset distributors?"

Great-bull-shit, Nestor! What did you foist upon my ship? To stay safely within the law, Matt should turn the AI harbored on the Aether's Touch over to the authorities. They'd dissect it and after their examination, testing, and backward engineering of rulesets, there was no guarantee the AI would be the same. But if any of Nestor's odd personality still existed, it was codified within that AI and Matt's long friendship with Nestor mandated that he protect the AI. He couldn't turn it over.

Reeve has lots of fun with her characterization. The book is full of strong characters who have interesting weaknesses. Ariane is smart, tough, and understands (and even abides by) her limitations; she's also a functioning alcoholic haunted by her past. Matt is loyal, passionate, and fiercely intelligent; he's also agrophobic [sic] and has serious trust issues. Even the secondary characters are more complex than they seem at first sight. (I was particularly fond of Sergeant Joyce.)...

The attention to detail with the inner workings of the Autonomist military, their dealings with outsiders (both civilians and aliens), and the relationships between crew members made Peacekeeper stand out from some of the other military sf offerings out there. This isn't just an excuse to shoot aliens on a distant planet, it's a complex system of routines, rules, and friendships forged under life and death circumstances. —OCD, Vampires, and Rants, oh my! 01/03/2009 (Genre reviews, LiveJournal)

Even though there are multiple subplots and a large cast, the author manages to keep everything moving forward in a logical manner. Politics permeate everything in this society, just as in our own. There are at least two sides to everything, and no situation is entirely black-and-white. I felt that a lot of the circumstances here were a little too obvious as parallels to recent world events, but that's a small quibble. Ari is a damaged and conflicted character, doing her best to do what's right. Or, at least, what seems right at the time. This is the start of what promises to be a superior scifi series. —CA Reviews, 12/15/2008

This is the first in the Major Ariane Kedros series and the author's debut novel. There's a lot of action going on, and science fiction fans should enjoy this story with its military element. Ms. Reeve shows great promise as an author, with her military knowledge lending a believable component to her fictional tales.  —Kimberly Swan, Darque Reviews, 11/09/2008

Former USAF officer Reeve channels her flight experience into this crisp military SF debut. Major Ariane Kedros is a jaded N-space pilot who left the Armed Forces of the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds under the shadow of war crimes committed against the Terran Expansion League... When several of her former crewmates are killed, Ariane is sent on a new undercover assignment that brings back haunting memories and puts her in considerable danger. Reeve drives the story at a breakneck pace, providing a fine mix of derring-do, honor and courage, and the familial bickering and affection of a close-knit crew.  —Publishers Weekly, 10/13/2008

An excellent debut novel. Peacekeeper is full of exciting, complex characters in a truly byzantine universe where everything hangs in the balance. I can't wait for Reeve's next book.  —Mike Shepherd, Author of the Kris Longknife Series

Peacekeeper pops onto Amazon's Kindle Top 100 Bestsellers in Science Fiction (08/20/2010).

Bookscan, the Nielsen-run database that keeps track of national booksales, lists Peacekeeper as the 13th bestselling mass market science fiction title in the country!  —First week Peacekeeper is on shelves, 12/10/2008