The Crucible of Empire

The Crucible of Empire-ARC
by
Eric Flint & K. D. Wentworth

Table of Contents

 

THE CRUCIBLE OF EMPIRE-ARC
Eric Flint and
K.D. Wentworth
Advance Reader Copy
Unproofed

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed
in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2010 by Eric Flint and K. D. Wentworth
A Baen Book
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403
Riverdale, NY  10471
www.baen.com
ISBN 10: 1-4391-3327-1
ISBN 13: 978-1-4391-3327-9
Cover art by Bob Eggleton
First Baen printing, March 2010
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data t/k
Printed in the United States of America

 
 

 

 
DEDICATION

This book is dedicated to the memory of Jim Baen, who started Eric's career as an author and had faith in Kathy's career when she most needed it.

 

 

 
CAST OF CHARACTERS

 

 
Humans
Rafe (Raphael) Aguilera:
Former tank commander, Third Construction Supervisor for the Lexington
Andrew Allport:
jinau sergeant in Baker Company
Dr. Eleanor Ames:
chief Jao physician (medician) on the Lexington
Michael Bast:
doctor on the Lexington
John Bringmann:
jinau in Baker Company
Melonie Brown:
Bridge Engineering Officer on the Lexington
Nancy Burgeson:
jinau in Baker Company
Scott Cupp:
jinau in Baker Company, private
Kristal Dalgetty:
jinau in Baker Company, pilot
Charles Duquette:
Lead-Pilot on the Lexington
Debra Fligor:
jinau in Baker Company, sergeant
Dennis Greer:
jinau in Baker Company, corporal
Thomas Kelly:
jinau in Baker Company, corporal
Dr. Jonathan Kinsey:
Professor of History, specialist on the Jao
Caitlin Alana Stockwell Kralik:
daughter of the President of the Jao's native government of North America, a member of Aille's service, Ed's wife
Ed Kralik:
Jinau commander of Earth forces, Major General, Caitlin's husband
Samuel Lim:
jinau in Baker Company
Caewithe Miller:
Lieutenant from Atlanta, jinau in Baker Company
Wallace Murphy:
jinau in Baker Company
Ned Phillips:
Tully's batman, half Cherokee, from Oklahoma
Willa Sawyer:
head of Human Resistance in Rocky Mountains camp
Benjamin Wilson Stockwell:
President of North America, Caitlin's father
Gabe (Gabriel) Tully:
former Resistance fighter, now a member of Aille's service, ranking as a major, and commander of Baker Company, a jinau unit
Rob Wiley:
Former U.S. Army lieutenant and military commander of the North American Resistance, now an officer in the jinau
Gary Young:
jinau in Baker Company
Lleix
Alln:
Eldest of Ekhatlore
Branko:
Eldest of Weaponsmakers
Finat:
older unassigned male of the
dochaya
Grijo:
Eldest of all and leader of the Han, also Eldest of the Dwellingconstructors
Hadata:
Starwarders pilot
Hakt:
Eldest of Shipservicers
Jihan:
originally of the Starsifters, founds Jaolore
Kajin:
youth released from Ekhatlore to help with Jaolore
Kash:
Starsifters, senior to Jihan
Lim:
unassigned female of the
dochaya
Lliant:
Ekhatlore
Mahnt:
Eldest of the Childtenders
Pyr:
formerly unassigned youth accepted by Jaolore
Sayr:
Eldest of the Starsifters
Segga:
Starwarder
Jao
Aille krinnu ava Terra:
Jao governor of Terra (was Aille krinnu ava Pluthrak)
Amnst krinnu ava Krant:
current Krant kochanau
Braltan krinnu ava Krant:
young male terniary-tech on his first voyage
Breen:
Subcommandant who, two thousand years ago, refused the Lleix's offers to help the Jao free themselves from the Ekhat
Brel krinnu ava Terra:
Subcommander equal in rank to Rob Wiley
Chul krinnu ava Monat:
terniary-adjunct who was in charge of the submersibles refit two years ago, expert in adapting Earth tech to work with Jao
Dannet krinnu ava Terra:
Captain of the
Lexington
, born of Narvo
Kaln krinnu ava Krant:
Senior-Tech on her destroyed ship
Jalta krinnu ava Krant:
pool-sib to Mallu, ranked Terniary-Commander on the destroyed ship
Mallu krinnu ava Krant:
Krant-Captain, pool-sib to Jalta
Mant krinnu ava Terra:
jinau in Baker Company
Naddo krinnu ava Krant:
Krant crew member
Nam krinnu ava Terra:
jinau in Baker company
Nath krinnu ava Terra:
Floor-Supervisor of the Pascagoula Refit Facility, Aille's first-mate, mother to his son and daughter
Otta krinnu ava Terra:
Pleniary-Commander, second in command of the
Lexington
, born of Nimmat
Sten krinnu ava Terra:
navigator on the
Lexington
, formerly of Binnat
Urta krinnu ava Krant:
Krant crewmember
Wrot krinnu ava Terra:
formerly retired veteran of the Conquest, born of Hemm, now an elder in Terra's new Jao taif
Yaut krinnu ava Terra:
Aille's fraghta, born of Jithra, an elder in Terra Taif
 
PART I: TERRA
Chapter 1

Gabe Tully was on detached duty in the Rocky Mountains Resistance camps when his Jao-issued com buzzed in his shirt pocket. A breeze rustled through the coin-shaped aspen leaves overhead as he silenced it quickly, hoping no one working nearby had heard. Even though Earth's Resistance was cooperating with the Jao invaders to fight the Ekhat—for now—many of his former comrades still resented him for apparently "selling out" by taking service under the Jao governor, Aille krinnu ava Pluthrak.

 

That hadn't exactly been his choice in the beginning, but there was no way to explain the situation to men and women who had never been exposed to Jao culture. They didn't understand that joining a Jao's service was more like taking an oath in a brotherhood. His loyalty was to this one particular Jao who didn't seem as bad as most.

 

And, of course, he wasn't going to point out to these rugged freedom fighters that, for all intents and purposes, they were enrolled in Earth's new human taif whether they liked it or not. The way he saw it, membership was a plus, guaranteeing them rights the Jao had previously denied, but until his Resistance brethren had seen the things Tully had seen and fought the battles he'd fought, there was no way they were going to understand.

 

Tully understood the old ways were forever altered. There was no going back. Mankind was living in a much more dangerous universe than any of them had ever credited. After the video record had come in from China two years ago—the smoking remnants of towns, forests blasted into cinders and mountains into slag—it was clear exactly what the Ekhat intended to do to Earth. If this alliance with the Jao could protect their world from another such attack, it deserved their allegiance, however grudging.

 

In order to talk privately, he slipped away from the hodgepodge of ramshackle cabins and tents that sheltered a good portion of what was left of America's free fighting force, then settled underneath a stone ledge. Bright morning light streamed in from the east. He braced his back against the sun-warmed rock and keyed the com's channel open. "Tully."

 

"Tully, Ed Kralik here."

 

Tully scowled. There had never been any love lost between the two of them, for all that they'd watched each other's back during that "unpleasantness" two years ago when the Ekhat attacked Earth. And of course, Kralik, as head of the Jao's jinau troops, outranked him, always a sore point. "Yeah, I'm kinda busy."

 

"Aille wants you in Pascagoula on the double."

 

"I'm in the middle of negotiations with Willa Sawyer," Tully said, watching an eagle soar above the pass. "Can't this wait a few more days? If I hot-foot it back to Mississippi now, I'll have to start all over when I return, and these folks are not crazy about the whole idea of working with us in the first place."

 

"This is big," Kralik's deep voice said. He hesitated. "Real big, to judge by all the excitement it's stirred up. The Jao are scurrying about like ants who've had their hill kicked apart. Aille understands how important your work is, and he still wants you back on base—now."

 

Wind shifted through a stand of pines higher up on the mountain side, filling the air with their cool pungence. With fall just around the corner, change was in the air. The seasons turned early at this elevation and the steep pass up into the mountains would probably be snowed-in before he could return, isolating the settlement for the winter.

 

Tully sighed, then massaged the bridge of his nose. Goddammit. Four weeks of talks shot all to hell, just when that old she-badger Sawyer seemed on the brink of saying yes. But there was no wiggle room with the Jao. If one who outranked you said "jump," you didn't even get to ask "how far?" You just closed your eyes and leaped. They would tell you where you landed later—if and when it suited them.

 

He stared at the plastic com as though this were all its fault, then ran fingers through his wind-blown blond hair. "It's not the Ekhat, is it?" he asked with a stab of dread.

 

"Not allowed to say," Kralik said. "In fact, Aille hasn't even told me yet, but there's plenty of speculation around here. Everyone agrees that something big is brewing. Just pack up and head out. I'm sending a small courier ship to pick you up down by that old airport in Aspen."

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