WINNER 2020 Dragon Award for Best Military Science Fiction Novel!
The greatest conflict the galaxy has ever known...
They were the Savages. Raiders from our distant past. Elites who left Earth to create tailor-made utopias aboard the massive lighthuggers that crawled through the darkness between the stars. But the people they left behind on a dying planet didn't perish in the dystopian nightmare the Savages had themselves created: they thrived, discovering faster-than-light technology and using it to colonize the galaxy ahead of the Savages, forming fantastic new civilizations that surpassed the wildest dreams of Old Earth.
Until the Savages came in from the Darkness...
When a Savage hulk lands on glittering New Vega, one of the crown jewels of the post-Earth galaxy, a coalition of planetary governments amasses their forces to respond to the post-human Savage Marines who've come to sack and enslave. But what the coalition forces find is something far more sinister than the typical Savage hit-and-run: this time, the Savages have come to stay.
Witness the intense beginning of THE SAVAGE WARS, the epic conflict, built into the lore of GALAXY'S EDGE, that will encompass over a thousand years of brutal fighting. Only the greatest military force in the galaxy can bring this war to an end... and the galaxy will never again be the same.
Experience the beginning of the Legion. Experience the Savage Wars.
Also available in audio book format performed by Stephen Lang (Avatar, Gods & Generals).
Release date: February 25, 2020
Publisher: Galaxy's Edge Press
Print pages: 377
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The state of play in those heady days before the rise of the Legion and the beginning of a galactic-wide Republic that would last nearly fifteen hundred years was simply fantastic. Citizens of the present age paint that time as a sort of dark ages that had fallen over the early galactic nations. But in truth it was a time of fantastic wonders. The fragile human explorer colonies that had first leapt outward to the advent of the hyperdrive had blossomed into incredible civilizations, and even fledgling empires, all connected by the gossamer of faster-than-light travel. The Age of the Hyperspace Civilization had begun.
Espania ruled over a clutch of dazzling worlds along the Siriusian frontier. From Spilursa came the galaxy’s finest technologists, bringing with them their haunting leaps into the world of Theoretical Dark Science. And the Vesper Confederacy, the Rigel Assembly, Britannia, and the old United Worlds were the power players as man first began to unite into the tribes that would form the mighty galaxy-spanning Republic.
But these fragile stellar homes, expanding outward toward the ever-widening frontier, were not without their monsters.
And sometimes the worst monsters are ourselves.
Our savage selves.
All throughout the centuries that passed since the advent of faster-than-light travel, the Savages’ massive sub-light colony ships—ships that had left a dying Earth during its darkest hours—had flung themselves outward. Only recently had they begun to heave into the frailer systems along the frontier—systems already inhabited by their human brethren who’d left Earth later but reached the stars much earlier, thanks to the hyperdrive.
These encounters, though rare, were neither merry nor happy. They were outright nightmares. Because the Savages, in their ages-long crawl through the intergalactic dark, marinating in their dystopian science experiments, had slowly but surely began shedding their humanity. They were now something… much different.
Though they were called Savages, and the term stuck and entered the popular lexicon, they viewed themselves as far superior to their un-evolved brethren. And in some cases, especially with regard to technology and weaponry, they were.
Fortunately for the human colonists, the Savages’ feeling of superiority extended to the other Savages—those who had left Earth in different lighthuggers. Each ship had its own portrait of the divine, of perfection, surpassing all others, and each saw all other Savage visions as blasphemous—and thus all other Savage tribes as blasphemers. Enemies. Targets. Thus those early Savage attacks were isolated incidents performed by isolated ships. And the frontier colonies were able to use their technology to amass boarding parties and naval resistance, driving the larger lighthuggers away and sending the smaller ones burning helplessly into the atmosphere. The fights were costly but localized—and winnable. The sluggish lighthuggers were easy to detect and easy to defend against.
Until the Savages acquired one key piece of technology.
And with that, the Savages found themselves able to assemble. To put aside the rancor they had for one another and focus on the real threat to their survival—us. To prepare for war greater than the galaxy had ever seen—at least since the days of the Ancients. The Savages were set to assume their place as rulers of the galaxy. Forgotten kings and lords, returned.
Their ascension would begin at New Vega, the brightest of the new colonies of forgotten Earth’s children.
It was there that the Savages would come in from the cold interstellar distances.
It was time.
For the next fifteen hundred years, there would be war between the Savages and the rest of the galaxy. A war for mastery. A war for domination. A war that could end only in total victory, for one side or the other.
There was no other solution. The Savages were gods, and all others owed them worship.
In that first fiery crucible that would become the Battle of New Vega, human men and women—along with the dozen alien races known at that time—answered the call. But death walked among them. Starships clashed, the sky caught fire, and cities burned to molten steel and ash. Great destructive powers were unleashed. Nightmares were made all too real.
That horrific battle was a mere taste of what was to come in the long years ahead. A taste, and a dire warning.
And hither came Tyrus Rechs…
Twenty-Fifth Spilursan Light
Attached to Coalition Strike Force Warhammer
Tactical Assault Carrier Montague
On Approach to New Vega
Captain Goss had the helm as the flat sturdy transport fell from hyperspace just beyond the planet’s outer atmosphere. There were five assault carrier transports in this flight, and all had come out of hyper in formation, which was no easy feat. But the United Worlds, or UW—pronounced “U-Dub” by busy spacers and soldiers—had the best-trained navy in existence, and as long as they were working with themselves, and not the other unprofessional navies of the Coalition, they could be relied on to execute advanced fleet maneuvers.
It was always the combined ops with other navies where things got a little sketchy.
“Radar,” said Goss, setting the deflectors to full forward. They were picking up a lot of chop from the outer atmosphere. The entire ship, fifteen decks and four hundred meters long, was bouncing and tossing as they set up to thread atmospheric reentry. “Get me a ping on Indomitable.”
He turned and smiled at Colonel Marks, the commander of his passengers. “We’re havin’ fun now.”
Marks made an effort to smile back, but the man was so enigmatically unknowable it was hard to say whether he was having fun or just letting Goss know that he was aware that he was having fun. And Goss was just fine with that. He had grown to like the colonel a lot in the flight out; they’d often played chess in the officer’s mess in the late ship-time evenings. Marks was an exceptionally quiet man—not much for conversation. Goss was fine with that too. The captain liked doing the talking, and Marks was a perfect complement, content to sit and listen. Listen, and beat him at the game soundly every night.
Goss marveled at that. Colonel Marks wasn’t a brilliant player—he lacked the flash and the imagination of someone who saw all the corners of the board and laid elaborate traps—but he was relentless, and he had the ability to see ahead. Goss had once asked just how many moves ahead Marks could see, but the man wasn’t able to articulate much.
“I just run my game and have a pretty good idea of what people are going to do at any given moment.”
That was about the most conversation Goss had gotten out of him at any one time during the jump.
“Indom’s coming through and on our six,” said Radar. “But she has no escorts. Didn’t make the jump on time.”
“Damn,” muttered Goss. He dialed in the approach. They were at one-twenty angels and coming in fast. Their atmospheric carrier was supposed to be overwatched by Rigelian Free Trader corvettes, but as always, inter-navy ops were proving difficult.
“Get me Admiral—”
The shaking began to subside as they entered a new atmospheric layer, but a new problem barged its way into command before Goss could finish his sentence.
“Sir, we got contacts,” said Radar. “Multiple bogies coming in from all directions.”
“At this altitude?” said the first officer from the co-pilot’s chair.
The tac officer chimed in over comm from back in the Montague’s tiny Combat Information Center. “Maybe New Vegan Air Force? Some sort of high-altitude fighter we don’t know about.”
“We better hope,” said Goss. “Spin up the PDCs. I don’t want to get caught with our pants down.”
He switched over to private comm on his headset, selected Colonel Marks from the menu with a flick of thumb on the flight yoke, then turned once more to his chess opponent. No one else could hear over the ambient roar of the Montague’s powerful engines and the violence of reentry.
Colonel Marks looked up from the battle board.
“Doesn’t look good,” Goss said. “Tac support carrier came in alone. You better get your men ready. My guess is the LZ is gonna be hot and we’re not gonna be holding over New Vega City. With no escorts she’ll be coming in blind. She won’t be able to deploy cover until we’re below ten thousand. That means no air support to take Rio.”
“Thanks for the heads-up.” Marks unbuckled from his jump seat and made his way aft and below to his unit down on the assault decks.
“Gonna be a long day,” sighed Goss as he exchanged a look with his first officer.
Right was what the first officer was about to say when the point defense cannons opened from the Montague’s starboard side. All three at once. Their groan was the sound of thousands of twenty-millimeter depleted uranium balls being flung along plotted intercept trajectories to engage the incoming bogies. The rail gun system was expensive and antiquated, but it did the job better than any modern blaster cannon had ever been able to. Plus, old Earth had the resource base to provide the high-velocity projectiles.
“Bandits!” called out Goss, upgrading the unknown identifier of bogie to bandit. An adversary and not just a contact. “Eleven o’clock.”
Matte-gray tiger-striped twin-hulled fighters streaked from left to right in front of the descending tactical assault carrier group.
The defense cannons managed to smoke three bandits, but two enemy fighters unloaded at almost suicidally close range, and the effects were instantly devastating to the flight crew of the Montague. These Savage weapons were far more powerful than any blaster technology the crew had ever witnessed on starfighters.
For a moment Goss’s mind refused to believe what was happening. He told himself it must just be particularly low-interval blaster fire. But the sudden swarm of dumb rounds that raked the forward bridge sounded just like the Montague’s archaic but effective perimeter defense cannons—which, in a very advanced form, were also nothing more than what some had once called “guns.”
The bridge was holed in a dozen places, and the entire flight deck turned into a cat-five hurricane as it depressurized. Any crewmembers who hadn’t been strapped in were sucked out by rapid decompression into the high atmosphere. Goss turned to see his first officer, riding shotgun, have his head vaporized by a massive round.
The captain could feel himself being sucked out and away, but the restraining harness built into the pilot’s chair held fast. His flight helmet saved him too, when his head was violently thrown about and into the various systems too close at hand. But he was blacking out all the same.
As he struggled to connect his oxygen, he monitored the instruments to check what attitude his ship was in. It hadn’t heeled over. That was good. But it continued to drop through the atmosphere of New Vega. Warning bells and damage klaxons whoop-whooped for his attention. Crewmembers were screaming or shouting orders.
The radar intercept officer screamed over chat and was sucked out through a gaping hole in the fuselage seconds before pressure equalized.
Goss felt an arctic blast of oxygen wash over his near-frozen face. He gulped it down, deeply. Emergency bulkheads were slamming shut between the bridge and the CIC.
Engine four failed.
He was trying to fly the ship when he saw the Hernandes, another assault carrier in the group, go up in a sudden ball of fury off the port side.
Twelve hundred and forty people dead in a flash.
Not important! he screamed at himself as the wind shrieked in through the shattered hull. Fly your own damn ship, you idiot!
He could hear comm reports telling him the Indomitable was in trouble and requesting help. Engineering reported that number four had gone up like a firecracker and that there were mass casualties on the deck.
But the ship was back under his control. He had power and maneuverability. It wasn’t dead stick yet. And his job was to get the infantry down and secure a beachhead around Objective Rio.
He took a calming breath and felt a sharp pain in his lungs. Looking down, he saw that his flight suit was dark and wet. He’d been shot in the gut.
“Not important,” he muttered through gritted teeth, and flew the approach to Objective Rio, dipping lower into the atmosphere.
At twenty thousand, the Savages opened up with air defense artillery at their beached whale of a ship.
Sergeant Major Andres hovered nearby as Colonel Marks pulled the unit’s standard-issue ablative plate carrier over the gray digital camo fatigues the Twenty-Fifth Light wore for urban combat. Marks was early middle age—young to have already made the rank of colonel within the Spilursan army. Andres knew he’d been in Black Watch, Spilursa’s Special Forces group, and assumed he must’ve been a highly motivated super trooper to have ranked so hard so fast, and that it was only because he was so high-speed low-drag that he’d been placed in command at the last second after the last CO had taken suddenly ill.
The sergeant major already had his commanding officer’s load-carrying equipment ready when the man stood. The colonel slung himself into the LCE, grabbed his helmet from the locker, and tapped the comm interface to make sure he was connected to the command net. Then he took the unit-issue pulse sidearm, a snub-nosed Mulotti and Garic with tactical grips and fifteen-shot charge pack, and holstered it.
Andres handed him a troop-issue pulse rifle. “Uh, sir!” he shouted, struggling to be heard over the damage control alarms. “I know you Black Watch types like to use all your high-speed toys and all… and I advise you to just carry what you’re used to since it seems like this is gonna be lit as can be and everything. You don’t have to carry the unit issue.”
Just as Marks opened his mouth to yell back, the alarms finally shut off, and the ship—which had seemed out of control for a moment or two, and was probably heavily damaged—was now once more steady and stable, and definitely in some kind of descent profile. He guessed they had lost one of the engines up top.
“No thanks, Sergeant Major,” the colonel said. “We all use the same gear.”
Nothing more. Nothing less.
The sergeant major was still learning that the new colonel was all business—Marks never gave the impression that he was anything but—and with enemy flak coming in close to the hull and exploding, that didn’t seem a bad thing. It looked like things were indeed going to get hot.
Maybe not Kimshana Hoolie Valley hot, but hot enough.
* * *
The colonel entered the briefing room to find his five company commanders studying their battle boards with their helmets tucked under their arms. All of them were young, high-speed infantry officers. There were no weak links. Marks had made sure of that. And so had Admiral Sulla, the United Worlds liaison who’d been the prime motivator behind the whole operation.
“Gentlemen,” began Marks.
The officers turned to face their commander. He’d ordered saluting dispensed with for the duration of the op, and none of them even twitched a muscle. Considering how military courtesy had been drilled into them by the professional Spilursan army, one of the best in the Coalition, Marks was impressed with their ability to quickly adapt.
But he didn’t let it show in the least on his stern face.
“Things don’t look good.” Marks’s face didn’t show concern over the fact. “Obviously you’re watching Fleet CIC. Three transports destroyed already. That leaves us with the Three-Six Armored Cav. We will hold Objective Rio until the fleet arrives in full. You have your sectors; if the situation changes on the ground, be ready to adapt. Join your companies in the MTACs. And be ready for anything. I’ll remind you once again: every Savage ship is a different thing. Expect the unexpected, and you won’t be surprised.”
“Yes, sir,” the men boomed in reply.
As the captains departed to join their companies aboard the mobile tactical assault crawlers, Sergeant Major Andres led Marks to the headquarters MTAC, where he joined the HQ command team and plugged into Fleet CIC.
Multiple images showed every Strike Force Warhammer asset in system. There were half as many as there were supposed to be, and most were coming in drips and dribbles. Task Force Wrath would arrive shortly, once the initial insertion LZ was secure, but many of the ships coming through in the first wave were getting shot up by what Fleet CIC was now tagging as Savage interceptors.
“How they have ships the size of our fighters that are both space and atmo-capable is a mystery to me,” muttered the S-2 officer, shaking his head over a battle board.
Marks was more concerned with the approach to Objective Rio and the city that surrounded it. It was pre-dawn dark—oh-three-twenty-four local time. Much of the fantastic city was in complete blackout. The feed from the cockpit sensors wasn’t good. Lots of disturbance.
“Is that from us, or local effect?” someone asked regarding the quality of the feed.
“Probably us,” said the S-2. “Ship got hit pretty hard coming in. But the flies are holding her together on three engines.”
“Good for Navy,” someone noted dourly.
Then they all saw it.
Some gawped. Others cursed.
The Savage ship was massive. Easily ten kilometers long. It was just a shadowy shape down there on the surface, but that shape revealed a slender bow, a fat and stacked midships, angular decks carved and rotating cylindrically along rising planes, and massive sub-light engines flaring away from the rear. Almost like an old-school rocket made high-tech if your perspective of such things was five hundred years old. And somehow it had managed to set down inside the city. Like it wasn’t going anywhere ever again.
“Should just pave this place with nukes. That’s what Rechs would’ve done.”
“Yeah, and then we’d be war criminals too.”
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