Beyond the borders of the Protectorate
Beyond the eyes of the Royal Martian Navy
Beyond the reach of the Mage-Queen
Innocents cry out for help – and Mars will answer!
When the Royal Martian Navy moved against reports of piracy in the Fringe Systems, the last thing Mage-Commander Roslyn Chambers expected was to find was a malignant remnant of the defeated Republic of Faith and Reason.
Now the Royal Martian Navy knows their enemy and their Mage-Queen has charged them to bring the First Legion, conquerors of the hidden colonies beyond the Fringe, to justice. The Legion knows the RMN’s tricks, though, and has cleverly concealed their tracks.
As Chambers and the spy Kelly Lamonte sweep distant stars for the trail of their enemies, the fleets of Mars gather behind them—but the fate of millions may lie in the hands of a woman none of them have ever met.
A woman the Republic already killed.
Sharon Deveraux was dead.
This was something she still wasn’t entirely comfortable with, though the evidence was hard to argue with. Her brain currently resided in a tank full of nutrients and wires buried deep in the Engineering department of the First Legion interstellar assault transport Ring of Fire.
She’d been conscious to that concept of her existence and current state for about a year. Her…masters had given her access to the ship’s internal sensors as one of the first things after they’d lifted her from her semi-coma.
They had direct access to her brain. Pleasure and pain were the push of a button for the people who commanded Sharon, and they used them freely to command her.
And yet…she’d done the math. She’d spent three years in a coma, only awoken by electronic commands forcing her to cast a single spell. Her body might be long gone, cremated in the morgue of a far away laboratory, but her magic remained.
For three years, she’d been nothing more than a component in a system that teleported Ring of Fire from star system to star system. But the Legion had needed more, so they’d carefully, oh so carefully, woken her up and trained her.
And yet she was still dead. But back when she’d been alive, fifteen-year-old Sharon Deveraux had trained puppies. She recognized response-reward training…and eighteen-year-old disembodied brain Sharon Deveraux was determined not to be trained.
But she had no intention of letting her masters think that. So, she’d begged, sat up and rolled over—and now she had an incredible scope of access to the assault transport’s computer systems.
“Sharon, do we have a course worked up for Aquila?” Colonel Tzafrir Ajello asked. Ajello was Ring of Fire’s Captain, once an officer of the Republic of Faith and Reason’s Space Assault Force.
“We do,” she told him. The voice that emerged on Ring’s bridge was computer-generated—Sharon no more had vocal cords than she had hands—and it showed none of Sharon’s thoughts.
She spoke with the soft contralto of a much older woman, with nothing to the generated voice to remind Ring of Fire’s crew of what horrors lurked in the heart of their engine room.
“If Lieutenant Zhao keeps us on course as planned, I will teleport us toward Aquila in four hours,” she continued. “We will teleport every twelve hours after that for six days, arriving in Aquila on the sixteenth.”
“Very well,” Ajello replied. “Zhao, engage on course.”
The transport shifted in space as her massive fusion engines engaged. The First Legion had no ability to produce antimatter, and their limited stores of antimatter left over from the Republic or stolen from the Protectorate of Mars were restricted to missile production.
“We’re picking up passengers in Aquila,” Ajello told the bridge crew—and Sharon. She was listening.
She was always listening. She wasn’t sure anyone on the starship really understood how thoroughly the brain they were using as a cyborg administrative and navigation computer was woven through their systems.
“Another tranche of workers for the Exeter Fleet Base,” the Colonel continued. “No assault forces for us, not yet. The crew and organic troop complement will be responsible for security and making sure that the workers don’t cause trouble.”
Even some of the living crew looked uncomfortable at that, but that was how the First Legion worked. Four of the Outer Colonies, worlds that had hidden themselves from Mars and the Mage’s Guild, had been conquered by the Second Independent Cruiser Squadron of the Republic of Faith and Reason—what was now the First Legion.
The populace of those worlds served the Legion as indentured labor—and much like Sharon Deveraux, they had no choice in the matter.
She’d been enslaved to the Prometheus Drive for four years now, but the last year, she’d become something different. Still a brain in a jar, she had mental fingers woven through every system of Ring of Fire.
She was dead. No longer human. She was something new—and she and the other awakened Mage brains that held together the Legion’s empire had chosen the only name that fit.
Born of the horror of the Republic’s Project Prometheus and bound to the fate of the First Legion, they were now their own people.
They were Prometheans.