It’s big! It’s beautiful! It’s… ooo, it’s so shiny! STARSHIP PEGASUS is finally live on Amazon. This rewritten relaunch (of The Lunar Gambit) can be read in Kindle Unlimited or purchased for Kindle devices, and will be on sale for 99cents through next Wednesday. Shazaam!
Here’s a glimpse at the front matter and first chapter, which can also be read in Amazon’s “Look Inside” preview feature:
Prophet Wars: Book 1
By Benjamin Douglas
Copyright 2019 Benjamin Douglas, all rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. All persons contained herein are fictional persons and not meant to represent other persons, fictional or real, outside of Benjamin Douglas’ work.
Large portions of this novel were previously published under the title The Lunar Gambit. This is an extensively rewritten re-launch of said work.
I cannot express how much it warms my heart to think that you have taken the time to open this thing I have poured myself into. Thank you! I do so hope you enjoy it.
Starship Pegasus began as an action/adventure story in my mind years ago. At the time I had an idea to write a tribute to the Three Musketeers in space. The novella that resulted was nothing like that concept, but I was still very proud. I published The Lunar Gambit in 2016 and was delighted and honored to find people that connected with the story and characters.
But I knew I could do better.
I kept writing, kept working, and began to grow. It is now my immense pleasure to present this extensively rewritten, relaunched edition, retitled Starship Pegasus. If you read my previous sci-fi novella, please be aware that this is a retelling that includes the same characters and much of the same storyline. Nevertheless I hope you find it enjoyable and refreshing!
Fair trigger warning: the characters contained in these pages find themselves in situations fraught with danger, and not everyone always makes it out alive. Furthermore, some of them are prone to cursing and using adult language. I did attempt to appeal to the better angels of their nature and remind them that not all of my readers are happy to consume too many four-letter words, but the characters insisted on a verismo interpretation, claiming their mouths would indeed go foul in order to cope if they found themselves in the aforementioned fraught scenarios in real life. I beg the reader’s indulgence.
If you like what you read, feel free to follow me on Amazon, Facebook, or Twitter, and consider signing up to receive my author newsletter. You’ll get an exclusive free short-story prequel, and a weekly-to-monthly message from me discussing upcoming releases, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been up to. It’s a great way to stay in touch!
Thank you. I am so grateful! And now, without any further ado, please strap in and enjoy the ride.
All my best,
Lucas woke up covered in blood.
He gasped, slipping in the viscous fluid as he tried to get up. The coppery scent overwhelmed his senses. He fell and landed on his hands with a splat, blood splashing out from the impact.
It was still warm.
Horrified, he wiped his hands on his blue maintenance trousers and pushed himself away from the puddle, sliding on his butt until his back met a wall.
“Fuck,” he whispered vehemently, struggling to his feet. He tried to breathe.
He was in a cargo bay. A lazy red light flashed intermittently, indifferently, as if letting him know he was in danger but it was not. He glanced around. It was a mess, not just the blood. Crates filled the space haphazardly, some overturned, some empty. A few showed their contents. Shell casings piled high and spilled out across the floor. He recognized them immediately. He hated kinetics. Had never been able to master them. A comet hopper, one of the small maintenance crafts on board, was parked on the other side of the disarray. Its hatch was open.
He took a few halting steps around the perimeter before stopping cold. He’d found the reason for the flashing light. The inner door of the airlock had been propped open, one of the overturned crates wedged just inside. Lucas was just one set of sliding doors away from getting sucked out into the unforgiving vacuum of space.
He cursed again, leapt across the room, and kicked the crate for all he was worth. It tumbled into the airlock and the inner doors hissed shut. The flashing light abated.
Then the sirens started.
“Emergency,” a synthesized voice said over crackling speakers. “Engine failure. Core meltdown imminent. Recommended action: abandon ship. Destruction imminent.”
Every bone in Lucas’ body screamed at him to take the comet hopper and get out. To save himself. But if he did that, all other souls on board would be lost.
He flew from the bay cursing vociferously and tumbled out into a corridor, shaking his head. What was going on? The last thing he remembered was starting his shift in engineering, still bleary-eyed and muzzy-headed.
“Hello?” His voice fell flat in the empty hallway. The cold white lights that ran along the wall near the ceiling at even intervals flickered. He blinked, getting his bearings. This had to be the top bay, deck twelve. He could head left to the back of the ship and grab a lift down to his post, or he could go right and look for one here to zip him up to the bridge.
He sprinted to the right as the ship began to quake. At first it was more of a sound, a low hum that slowly became a vibration beneath his feet. By the time he reached the bridge the trembling had broken into violent lurches, sending him against the walls. He pounded the console beside the doors and waited, panting, for them to open.
It was a nightmare. Had to be. Any moment now he’d wake up and see his friends had played a prank on him, slipped him something in his drink. Idiots. They were probably laughing right now, watching him sweat in his sleep.
He didn’t wake up.
The command chair was empty. A few officers were hunched over their stations, unconscious—or worse, he thought with a grimace. A low, ominous creak sounded from somewhere below decks, lending its voice to the cacophony already shuddering through the hull. The ship was about to blow.
He ran to the command chair and swiped at the console. “Come on, come on!” he muttered beneath his breath. Emergency protocols. Engine commands. Then he found it: eject core.
He slapped the screen so hard that for a moment he was worried he had broken it. It flashed red and the computer’s voice, more clear here, sounded. “Core ejection requires command login. Please supply.”
What? He hadn’t had to login to use the console! Stupid two-part authentications. They were about to be the death of him.
“Come on!” he shouted, slapping it again. This time he left a smear of blood, drops spattering across the face and side of the controls. The computer beeped.
“DNA authentication accepted: Captain Ronald Harris. Core ejection in five, four, three…”
“Holy shit,” Lucas muttered, staring at the blood on his hands.
The ship lurched and he fell back, catching himself against the chair. The view-screen lit up for just a moment, blinding him. That would be the core meltdown, he realized.
“Core ejection complete. Engine non-operational. Imminent destruction avoided. Life support reserves remaining for six hours.”
His legs had gone numb. Gingerly, he lowered himself into the chair, letting out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. Six hours. One problem at a time. For now, he was alive. That was something.
“Who are… oh, it’s you.”
Lucas looked up at the voice to see Lieutenant Caspar, the head of munitions and one of the only crew members on board for whom this wasn’t her first deployment, staring at him. She frowned. “What are you… what’s going on?”
Lucas rose to his feet, hands held out. “It’s ok! I’m sorry, I just… I came up to help, and everyone was passed out, and…” He felt sheepish. He’d been sitting in the chair. Her frown slowly grew to a look of alarm, eyes wide and mouth hanging open.
“What did you do?”
That’s when he realized she meant the blood.
It was still all over him. “Oh! Uh, I mean… Ok. Honestly, I don’t know. I woke up like this. On the deck of the cargo bay. Then I got the message that the core was about to blow, and I know what that means—well, you do too, I guess—so I ran up to make sure it was taken care of, and then—”
“Yes, it’s gone. The core. Ejected.”
Caspar nodded and looked around, assessing the state of the bridge.
A young man strapped into the helm station was stirring, rubbing his eyes. “Did this guy just say he shot the core out? Cause if that’s true—” he yawned, “—guess I’m out of a job. Hard to steer a ship with no juice.”
“Ow, my head!” another voice called. Lucas turned to see a private—he looked even younger than the rest of them—rubbing his temples as he sat up. “What happened?”
“We were compromised,” Caspar said. “Not sure if life-support flaked or what, but we were all down. All except him.” She nodded at Lucas. “Care to explain that?”
“Ah, not really.” Scowls and glares. “I mean, that is, I don’t really know how. I was out too. Just woke up before the rest of you, I guess. Just in time.”
“What about the mess?” She waved at him. “Don’t tell me that’s not blood. I can smell you from here.”
He winced. “I don’t know. Honest. I was in a pool of it in the bay, no bodies or anything.” Nevermind that it apparently belonged to the captain of the Pegasus. No need to mention that until he had a better idea of what was happening himself.
“I don’t like it,” she said, tilting her chin up. “But I know my place. Where’s Harris?”
Lucas felt his legs grow weak again.
“Sock?” Caspar called. “Where is the captain?”
The computer beeped. “Captain Harris is not currently aboard the Pegasus.”
Lucas’ stomach dropped. Not aboard, not aboard? Or just not alive?
“Huh.” Caspar rubbed her jaw. “Stranger and stranger. Ok, blue blood.” Her eyes locked with Lucas’. “You in charge, or am I?”
“Uh… I’m just a… I’m from engineering,” he mumbled.
“Uh-huh. We can do that. Randall, can you confirm that you’ve got nothing?”
The helmsman nodded, eyes on his console. “Already checked. Without the core… well, let’s just say the ship wasn’t routing much by way of reserves. We’re dead in the water. Uh, Sir. Should I call you Sir?”
She glared at him.
“Right,” he said. “Sir. We’ve got nothing. Life support for… geez. Six hours.”
The kid with the headache let out a low whistle.
“Well that’s no good.” Caspar paced. “Can we stretch it out a bit?”
“Rationing can get us eight, maybe nine hours, but… that will mean closing off parts of the ship.”
Caspar stopped pacing and looked up at the ceiling, her face drawn tight in concentration. Lucas frowned. If Harris was gone… was Caspar in charge now? The ship’s engineer—Lucas’ supervisor—was further along in years, but had never shown an interest in command. Though Caspar hadn’t either from what Lucas had heard. She’d been a legend at the academy, top of her class, but something had happened on her first tour that had changed her. That’s why she was here playing babysitter with Harris.
“Fine. Adams will hate this but let’s do it. Sock, open a comm to engineering.”
Beep. “Unable to establish connection with engineering.”
Caspar cursed quietly. “Right. One more thing to add to the list. Sock, open a ship-wide comm instead.”
Beep. “Ship-wide communication commencing in three, two, one.”
Caspar cleared her throat. “Attention, Pegasus crew.” She chuffed mirthlessly and Lucas knew what she must be thinking. Crew was a ludicrous overstatement. The ship had been deployed with a skeleton compliment, nearly all of them first-timers, himself included. There wasn’t even appropriate chain-of-command on board to deal with a crisis like this, let alone material resources. It was supposed to be a simple voyage. A boring voyage. A peacetime voyage, one more hurrah for the old boat, one cheap and easy way for a class of cadets to dip their toes into the water and learn the ropes of a starship. Even Caspar had only been flying for a couple of years.
They were just kids.
“This is Lieutenant Caspar. There has been a ship-wide emergency. Please report immediately to your section leaders. Anyone who has not checked in by…” she paused, glancing at her wrist console, “by 0900 will be considered missing in action. Section leaders, at 0900 you will direct your sections to decks one through ten. All decks below ten will be closed to all personnel after that time. Section leaders, please report directly to me with questions. Caspar out.”
“Smart,” head-ache kid said. “Shut down the lower decks, let them go cold. Cuts our oxygen needs in half, too. Wouldn’t want to be the schmuck who gets stuck down there, though.”
Caspar spun to face him. “Do I know you? Didn’t you just get here, like, a few seconds before everything went to hell?”
He shrugged. “Didn’t we all, Sir? Anyway I’m Tompkins. Pleasure to meet me.”
She scowled at him.
“Ah, Sir?” Lucas said.
“Are you still here?” Her eyes shot daggers at him. “Pick a lane. You want deference or command? I won’t do both.”
“I just want to help. Won’t shutting down all the decks below ten mean closing off engineering?”
“Without a core our engine is useless, and reserves will still operate without access if we route them to the top decks. Right now we need to focus on staying alive and getting a signal out. Our best bet is a rescue.”
“Yeah,” the helmsman, Randall, said, “about that, Sir. You’re not going to like this.”
“Keeps getting better and better.”
“We’re not just dead, we’re, ah, spiraling out into the dead-zone. Beneath the inner belt. Look.” He punched a few keys and a map appeared on the view-screen. It showed the meteor belt, beneath which they’d been flying, and then a little blue dot far, far beneath. “We’re already past all the major trade routes. Without altering our trajectory or velocity, we’ll be well beyond, well, anything, by the time support runs out. Chances of a rescue… they’re not great.”
Caspar folded her arms and breathed loudly through her nose.
The bridge doors hissed open and a private entered. Lucas recognized the bars on her arm denoting security. “Everyone alright up here?” she looked around. “Where’s the captain?”
“Tell me when you find out,” Caspar said. “Lieutenant Karl send you up?”
The private shook her head, a bit of red hair coming loose. She brushed it out of her face. “No, Sir. Can’t seem to find him.”
“So who are you?”
“Private Mulligan, Sir. To be honest, I can’t seem to find anyone else from security right now… not that there were many of us,” she added quietly.
“Then I guess you’ll have to do. Here, I’ve got something for you.” She fixed her eyes on Lucas. “Give her your shirt, kid.”
“Excuse me?” He frowned, looking back and forth between Caspar and Mulligan.
“Evidence,” Caspar said. “I don’t know what’s going on aboard this ship, but my gut says not to blindly trust the guy covered in blood. I don’t care who your parents are.”
Lucas blanched. After a moment of Caspar staring him down, he fumbled with the buttons of his blue overshirt, pulled it off from his gaunt shoulders, wadded it up, and tossed to it Mulligan. She caught it with a little grunt.
“And the undershirt,” Caspar said. Lucas thought the Lieutenant might be enjoying this. Whatever. He didn’t have anything to hide, no matter whose blood it was.
No matter that he knew whose blood it was.
“Fine.” He threw his undershirt, usually a crisp white, now drenched in blood. He was cold. “Got enough?”
Caspar nodded, her eyes flicking back up to his. “For now. You, Private.” She glanced at Mulligan. “Escort him to engineering, then make sure the shirts get put into clean storage. I want them analyzed as soon as things quiet down.” She turned her attention to Lucas. “And you. You want to help? Find Adams. Assess the situation. Report back. Even better, send him up if he’s able. We need to work this.”
Lucas walked toward the door, wrapping his arms around himself. Was life-support already rationed? The ship didn’t usually feel so cold. He came to a stop beside the security private. She must have been a foot shorter than him. Maybe that’s why she pulled her sidearm.
“Lead the way,” she muttered.
Lucas sighed and left the bridge at gunpoint.
–END of CHAPTER 1! Read the rest here…