Asylum is the third book in the Loralynn Kennakris series. It consists of two installments: Wogan’s Reef, and Asylum, combined in one volume. (Total print length: 490 pages)
War is all hell . . . and there’s no place like home.
It’s been a rough year for the Nereidian League in its war against the Dominion of Halith. The Doms have had pretty much everything their own way since the beginning. The CEF has been forced to bend repeatedly, but they’ve yet to break.
For Ensign Loralynn Kennakris, Lieutenant Commander Rafe Huron, and a Marine captain named Minerva Lewis, the time for bending is over. They’re in a mood to start breaking things, and they don’t much care if they have to go through hell to do it.
Armed. Dangerous. And nothing left to lose . . .
First they called her a hero. Then they called her a medical problem. Now they’re calling her a criminal. It’s been an exciting first year on active duty for Lieutenant-JG Loralynn Kennakris.
She started it by proving herself to be the Nereidian League’s most promising young fighter pilot in the war against the Dominion of Halith. She’s earned decorations and garnered both admirers and enemies. But those rumors wouldn’t go away: dangerous mental instability, hostile tendencies, latent psychosis. Pushed too far, she did the unforgivable, and now her enemies have exactly the excuse they’ve been waiting for.
They are right about one thing, though: Kris is dangerous, and now she has nothing left to lose.
Release date: 21 February 2015.
Print Edition: https://www.createspace.com/5315273
LSS Trafalgar, deployed
Mirandan space, Cygnus Sector
The fighter ghosted up on the carrier, dark and quiet, showing only a faint ultraviolet nimbus from the leaky power plant. All around, the wreckage of battle orbited, mostly cooled by now to invisibility, but here and there floated brilliant star-like objects: the stasis bottles that contained the antimatter fuel for hypercapable warships. These beacons for the dead would shine for decades, or if they were massive enough—like those of fleet carrier LSS Camperdown and the light carrier IHS Revanche, both of which had exploded with the loss of all hands—centuries, casting their piercing blue-white light through the battlespace. Elsewhere, wounded leviathans wallowed in clouds of their own debris and crystallizing atmosphere: a thousand kilometers away to port, LSS Blenheim drifted, a swarm of consorts giving what aid they could while damage-control teams fought desperately to save the battleship’s life, while five hundred klicks below, the heavy cruiser LSS Jellicoe, tumbled helplessly, awaiting the coup de grâce that would blow her fusion bottles and add her star to the rest. Much nearer, LSS Ramillies, mauled by alive, worked frantically to clear her fouled desk and recover the last of her pilots.
In the cockpit of her fighter, Ensign Loralynn Kennakris could perceive none of this. Her forward screen was a scorched ruin, most of her instruments were hash; all she had left was the beacon indicator on her omni display. She kept an iron hand locked on the controls, waiting until she got close enough for her maser to be heard with what was left of her battery power. The range rings ran off the edge of the omni, one by one, much too slowly for her taste. As the last grew outwards, she keyed the mic.
“Trafalgar, this Echo 1-4. I’ve got a bit of a problem here.”
The reply was a dim crackle over her headset. “Read you, Echo 1-4. What’s your status?”
“My status is fucked.” Kris blinked at the sweat that the armored flight suit should have been taking care of. “I’m on manual. Battery’s in the red. Atmo down to twenty-seven percent.”
“A-firm on that, Echo 1-4,” the voice replied. “Declare an emergency.”
She desperately wanted to pop the faceplate to get the sweat out of her eyes, but there wasn’t enough air left for that. “Emergency declared. Look, I need you guys to uplink a BOLO approach. I’ll fly the pip. Clear the deck for a hot landing.”
“Acknowledged. Wait one.” There was a brief pause on the other end. “Negative, Echo 1-4. You’re too badly damaged. Standby for tractor tow.”
“No way!” Kris barked. “If one of your ham-fisted operators gets a beam on this crate and he’ll crack it wide open. Gimme the pip.”
“Repeat negative, Echo 1-4. We’ll scramble a pick-up. Prepare to eject.”
“No can do,” Kris said wearily. “Just link me the data—I think I’ve got enough reserve to make it in.” Another excruciating pause.
“Kennakris,” said a new voice on the line, “do you have suit perforations?”
“Goddammit, I’ve got me perforations,” Kris snapped. “Now link me that goddamned pip before I park this thing in the bridge. Sir.”
“Roger that. Uplink commencing.”
The pip appeared on her omni, blinking bright orange. She was too wide and still too fast. She ground her teeth hard as she pulled back on the stick. Flying a pip was always tricky—with one hand and a crippled bird it might prove impossible. A hull splinter had gone right through her left shoulder, another had broken some ribs, and while the vasoconstrictors were controlling the bleeding and the suit pharmacopeia was dealing with the pain, it couldn’t give her left arm back its strength or help much with her breathing, which was short, shallow, difficult, wheezing.
That was because of the ribs, she hoped. The rips in the flight suit were self-sealing and at twenty-seven percent atmosphere, it should still be holding pressure, but at around fifteen percent it would start leaking again. At ten, it would fail. But she had no attention to spare for the environmental readouts; the pip was turning yellow from orange but she wasn’t sure she had enough decel left to get it into the green.
“Huron”—she’d recognized his voice—“you still there?”
“Get ‘em to foam the deck. This is gonna be close.”
“Roger that.” Then: “You’re still too wide. How much you got left?”
“We can match velocity in three minutes.”
Sweat stung her eyes, blurring the pip. She blinked furiously. A claxon went off, startling her. The environmentals: cabin pressure was dropping towards critical.
“No joy. Atmo down below twenty percent—falling.” Her breath was coming in sharp painful pants. “Look”—a pause as she fought for air—“I’m gonna keep this vector and give it all the decel I got for the next forty-five seconds before I break right to make the approach. But you’re gonna have to slew that beast about a point.” She paused again, trying to get control of her breathing. “Can they do it?”
“Affirmative, Kris. Bring it home. We’ll catch.”
I hope so.
She jammed the decel for all it was worth. The fighter shuddered and bucked; the broken bones in her shoulder ground sickeningly into each other and the pain from her ribs stabbed hot and deep.
By all the fucking gods, I hope so. . .
Epona, Cygnus Sector
What a fuck’n miserable way to end a career. If a week shy of thirteen months could be called a career. Loralynn Kennakris stabbed morosely at the ice in her poisonously green drink. Three hundred ninety days, forty-eight victories, five decorations—including a Distinguished Flying Cross with Clusters and a Senatorial citation for valor. Wasted. Blown away in half a twisted moment . . .
She went back to torturing the ice in the bottom of the tall funnel-shaped glass. Shards of it and viscous green liquid swirled thickly. You finally got me, you dead fucker. Although you’re not really dead, are ya? I still carry you around in my head.
Anton Trench, captain of the contract slaver Harlot’s Ruse—her owner and the man who’d first called her Kris—had gotten his revenge, just over a thousand days late. Reached up out of the grave she’d put him in and nailed her. For the longest time, she hadn’t remembered doing that. Then, about four months ago, the memories had started to seep out: confused flashes and vivid scraps that would shock her awake at night. At times, she could almost convince herself it was just an especially lucid nightmare—one that always ended with Trench laughing at her—but then she’d catch a veiled comment or the tag end of a distorted rumor told third-hand and a little while later some new detail would be called up. And the more she remembered, the harder she tried to forget.
But not for much longer. Tomorrow or the next day, or some day after that, chances were the med-techs would arrive and banish those memories—and Trench—forever. And everything else.
A hell wallpapered with happy little smiles . . .
She’d rather administer her own medicine. The drink—a near-lethal concoction of Maxor vodka, Hotch whiskey, and lime ice—hadn’t been purchased for the flavor. It was a one-way ticket to drunken oblivion, a state she had been trying to achieve for several hours. So far, it hadn’t been working out.
Mechanically, she sipped the Hotch & Vodka, her upper lip curling against the aromatic vapor that lay burning on her tongue and stung as it invaded her nose. Damn, this stuff got stronger with every sip. Groping, she snatched up a waiting beer chaser and took a long pull. The foaming, malt-sour fluid washed around in her mouth and killed the congener sting. She swallowed, then inhaled deeply to clear her sinuses.
No, this wasn’t working at all. Getting drunk had never been one of the things she did well, although she was making fair progress towards getting sick. Perhaps being sick was as good a distraction as being drunk. She raised the glass to her mouth; the smell made her stomach roll.
Then again, maybe not. . .