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

Major Ariane Kedros #2: Vigilante

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Time is Running Out

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—guilty of piloting a ship on a mission that obliterated an entire solar system.

Amid an uneasy peace between the Autonomists and the Terrans, Ariane and her partner, Matt, have discovered alien ruins on a remote moon—ruins that bear evidence of an ancient and highly advanced technology. But their discovery has drawn the interest of high-stakes players from every corner of the universe—including that of the rogue leader of a fringe Terran sect. His family was destroyed by alien technology, and to avenge them he's managed to get his hands on a temporal-distortion weapon. Now Ari must find a way to stop him before they all become ancient history.

The Ideas Behind Vigilante

A reviewer of Peacekeeper (MAK#1) thought a few events too obviously paralleled "recent world events." But that book was written at least two years before its release and I was actually worried the story was dated. The politics and economics of Ariane's world are structured on the US/USSR Cold War and I thought weapon treaties had become passé!

I had decided to make Vigilante about the terrible weapons in Ariane's world. Then I saw a piece on a news site that covers military issues. What had happened at an (unnamed) air base was that an (unnamed type) nuclear weapon had been left attached to an (unnamed type) aircraft after an exercise. Then it had been carted around on a cross-country mission and was only discovered because a storage inventory showed one weapon missing. Since I had worked in USAF Nuclear Weapon Safety, I read that story with a whopping grain of salt… but the seed was planted for my story.

I also needed a bad guy with motivation to use a "TD weapon" as a way to destroy some Minoan time buoys that make faster-than-light travel possible in and out of a solar systems (TD weapons are the only thing that can destroy the buoys). I found it inside Peacekeeper, itself, where I reference the extreme justice of the Minoans: to punish some small-time pirates who attacked one of their ships, they released genetic weapons upon the pirates' tribe enclave. Of course, then I have to figure out what those weapons really did, and what effect they had upon the tribe.

 Entire Series


"Pleased to meet you, Colonel. If you and your aide will step this way."

Colonel Owen Edones followed the Terran, his shiny shoes clicking on the deck. Oleander brushed imaginary lint from her service dress coat and walked calmly behind and a step to the right, where an anonymous aide should stay.

For a moment, she wondered if the scheduling staff aboard the Bright Crescent was purposely torturing her. She squelched the idea. Someone had to take the place of the mysteriously missing Sgt. Joyce on this emergency mission and her name must have come to the top of the rotation list titled "Unpleasant Additional Duties for Junior Officers."

She followed Colonel Edones through a door into a small conference room.

"This is a secure room, sir." The serviceman who showed them into this room backed out quickly, closing the door behind him.

Looking around, Oleander understood his haste. Putting a dead body on the conference table could only liven up the place. Two Terran officers and two Autonomist officers sat at the table, their faces pale and drawn. Her own red service dress with gold trim was the single bright spot; the Terrans wore their customary muddy colors and the other Autonomists, including Edones, were dressed in the black uniform of the Directorate of Intelligence, which sported light blue trim in modest amounts.

"Shut that down." The major, whose nametag read "Bernard," pointed at the slate she carried. Oleander had read her pre-mission briefing. Bernard was the leader of the Autonomist weapons inspection team visiting this Gaia-forsaken Terran outpost. Despite the cool temperature in the room, Major Bernard's face sweated. Beside him sat a burly female captain named Floros, who looked ready to vomit.

"Yes, sir." Oleander thumbed off her slate and stowed the stylus. She tilted the slate so everyone could see that it couldn't record.

Colonel Edones walked to the head of the table where an empty chair waited. All faces rotated to watch him. In Oleander's short experience with Edones, she'd noticed he could grab and hold the attention of any room.

Something's wrong. Oleander suddenly wished she could flee through the door behind her. She wasn't going to like what was coming: moreover, she saw the dark maw of the Directorate sucking her even deeper into the muck of military intelligence.

"You called me here using an emergency priority, Major." Colonel Edones put the lightest lilt of a question onto the end of his sentence.

Bernard took a deep breath and said, "A TD weapon's gone missing."

"Hey, Ari, you don't look too bad. Must have been an easy drop," Matt said, when he eventually climbed up on the control deck.

Meaning I still have my hair and I only lost a little weight. Ariane's mouth twitched as she turned in her chair. In that motion, she realized how tired she was.

Matt's shirt trailed on the deck from one hand while he stared at the in-the-round display above and in front of her console. His bare chest was exposed and she made herself look away from this close sample of a lean muscled male abdomen. After all, Matt was crew.

"An awesome sight, right in the middle of our front window," Matt said. Of course, Aether's Touch didn't have real windows because of radiation.

"What is that?" Joyce was completely dressed in crisp civilian clothes, though they somewhat resembled a uniform. "Hey, don't you guys require shirt and shoes to work here?"

"That is the Pilgrimage Three, one of the largest generational ships ever built. What a beauty!" Matt pulled on his shirt and padded over to the front console, ignoring Joyce's barb about not wearing his sticky soled shoes.

"We're on approved docking vector and our gravity generator is aligned." Ariane looked up at the display. True, the Pilgrimage III was impressive. Currently configured in habitat mode, the generational ship looked like a fairy castle with spires bursting upward from her bulky engines and gravity generator.

"Have you done voice check-in?" Matt looked at the console, examining status.

"No. I just sent our ship key and got our docking vector. If you want to formally check in, be my guest," Ariane said.

Matt tapped the console. "Pilgrimage Three, this is the Aether's Touch on approach as directed. We're carrying three crewmembers, with the following authorization keys."

The response was immediate and cheery. "Welcome back to Gamma-145, Aether's Touch. Looking forward to greeting everyone. Pilgrimage Three out."

"What do they mean by greeting?" Joyce said suspiciously.

"It's tradition for everyone to disembark upon entry to the system, tour the controlling generational ship, and meet with the command staff. It allows them to catch up on Autonomist, or Terran, idioms and customs. A dinner is usually involved." Ariane swiveled her chair around to look at Joyce. His dismayed expression didn't raise any sympathy in her.

"Is there a problem, Mister Joyce?" Matt's tone was acidic. "Please, enlighten us."

"I need to get to Beta Priamos Station. Quickly."

"Well, well." Ariane saw Matt's brown eyes flicker, then harden.

The door slid open just as Ariane felt her slate vibrate. She pulled it out of her coveralls pocket, seeing a message from Muse 3. This was a bad time, but before her thumb started to set the hold, she noticed the priority. An emergency?

"I've got a message from the agent on my ship," she said, frowning and pausing in the open doorway.

"The comm center can take it." Sewick whipped out his own slate. "Funny, the center's not responding. Perhaps they're doing some maintenance."

Ariane thumbed open the message, feeling uneasy. How could her slate be getting a message if the moon's comm center was down? The text message said nothing but "CAW SEP 12.35.15." CAW Space Emergency Procedure twelve-dot-thirty-five, number fifteen? What the hell did that mean? The thirty-five series covered interruption of command, control, or communications, but number fifteen was rather obscure. Her scalp wasn't simply prickling; it tingled with the sense of danger.

"I'd better check the comm center," she said, turning around and walking quickly back down the corridor toward the pillared hall. She brushed past the other contractors and Major Dokos. Suddenly the title for 12.35.15 popped into her mind: Hostile Takeover of Command and Control centers.

She turned the corner and started running.

"This is the Destroyer of Worlds the State Prince told us about." Tahir prodded Ariane in the back with the bulbous flechette pistol.

Abram inspected her, his gaze traveling over her once, stopping on her face. Ariane tried not to recoil. Abram's face was pitted and lifeless. His dark eyes were dead and reptilian, yet burned with anger—she'd never seen such frightening eyes. He'd do better as a flesh-eating mindless zombie lizard-man in a v-play, than as a human being with a soul. Trying to meet his gaze was physically exhausting. Nothing in his eyes indicated he was looking at another person; he might have been looking at a slate, rather than Ariane.

"No, you've got the wrong person. I know Ari. She's just a pilot," Frank said.

With relief, Ariane turned away from Abram to look at Frank.

"Right, Ari? You weren't in the war..." Frank's voice died away as she raised her eyebrows. His forehead wrinkled and his expression became pained. "You didn't have anything to do with Ura-Guinn. I'd be disappointed—"

"You're disappointed? That's a laugh, Fr—" The side of her head exploded and she was suddenly on the floor. She tasted blood and her vision grayed and narrowed to a point as she fought to stay conscious. Abram didn't pull his punches for women. She heard an exclamation from Frank.

"I can't allow livestock to be insolent. It's an issue of training," Abram said dispassionately. His voice sounded far away, far above, as he added, "Take blood and tissue samples from her. The Terran said she has rejuv enhancements, so if she can pass anything of worth on to male progeny, we'll keep her."

She ground her teeth, trying not to shriek from the pain in her skull. Someone pushed her jacket sleeve up for samples, then strong hands grabbed her upper arms and hauled her to her feet, and higher. As she dangled, the hands dug into her arms and the quick-tie cut into her wrists. She couldn't open her eyes or raise her head.

"Put her in with the Terran," Abram said.

"But he'll kill her," Tahir protested.

"I merely assist in both their arcs of retribution," was the cold flat retort from Abram, but she didn't understand the words.

They dragged her out of the room.

Laura E. Reeve continues to grow as a writer, as this novel is more expansive than the first. A potential drawback is that by introducing new characters, there's the risk of not focusing on the original main characters enough to satisfy fans of previous books. Regardless, Vigilante is an excellent book I'd recommend to fans of the military SF genre.  —Curled Up With A Good Book, Douglas R. Cobb, 2009

It is rare that a sequel is as compelling as the first book in a series, but VIGILANTE by Laura E. Reeve is that rare exception... In particular, I admire how Reeve was able to split the main characters into three separate groups, each facing its own obstacles. She intertwines their stories brilliantly, tying up loose ends nicely to create a heart-stopping conclusion. It's like getting three exciting plot lines for the price of one... I look forward to the next novel in the series, and can't wait to see how Major Kedros's character develops over time.  —Iriarte Files—Writer's Nightmare: Book Review of the Day, 12/20/2009

Thanks to an intriguing ensemble cast and their varied takes on the nicely complex universe, readers who missed 2008's Peacekeeper will find it easy to catch up in this entertaining second military SF adventure for Ariane Kedros, a secret agent of the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds... When terrorists arrive with a stolen temporal-distortion bomb, seeking vengeance for perceived wrongs of the past, alliances form and shift as the tension mounts. Reeve immediately immerses the reader in her universe's vernacular, acronyms and backstory, an approach most rewarding to those who are versed in learning from context.  —Publishers Weekly, 8/3/2009