A Sword Into Darkness

A SWORD INTO DARKNESS

Solid adventure, intrigue and speculative space-tech, from a rising star in military science fiction.

DAVID BRIN

, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of ‘

EXISTENCE

,’ ‘

THE POSTMAN

,’ and ‘

STARTIDE RISING

There are brilliant first contact stories, great space combat stories, and amazing stories of technological discovery. Rarely do you find all three in the same novel. Remember the name Thomas A. Mays. You’re going to be seeing it on the bestseller list.

JEFF EDWARDS,

Award-winning author of

SEA OF SHADOWS

,’ and ‘

THE SEVENTH ANGEL

Sharply written, suspenseful and tightly plotted, A SWORD INTO DARKNESS reads like the best Tom Clancy novels, with a science fiction heart provided by Arthur C. Clark. Can’t wait to read more from Thomas Mays!

GRAHAM BROWN

, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of ‘

ZERO HOUR

,’ ‘

BLACK RAIN

,’ and ‘

THE EDEN PROPHECY

A SWORD INTO DARKNESS

Thomas A. Mays

Stealth Books

A SWORD INTO DARKNESS

Copyright © 2013 by Thomas A. Mays

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author or publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Stealth Books

www.stealthbooks.com

www.improbableauthor.com

ISBN-13: 978-1-939398-13-0

Printed in the United States of America

TABLE OF CONTENTS

DEDICATION

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

BOOK ONE: “FORGED”

1: “TURNAROUND”

2: “DEATH FROM BELOW”

3: “ZINGER”

4: “MATTERS OF STATE”

5: “BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL”

6: “OF PICTURES, PRAWNS, AND POSSIBILITIES”

7: “THE PROMISE”

8: “AN UNEXPECTED GUEST”

9: “CATHEDRALS IN AIR”

10: “FATEFUL MEETINGS”

11: “TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS”

BOOK TWO: “TEMPERED”

12: “ECCENTRIC ORBITS”

13: “THE LIBERTY LETTERS”

14: “FIRST CONTACT”

15: “DEATH FROM ABOVE

16: “PATRONS”

17: “UNIVERSAL TRUTHS”

18: “WELCOMING COMMITTEE”

19: “FROM DARKNESS—LIGHT”

EPILOGUE: “UNSHEATHED”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DEDICATION

To my lovely wife, Jen. She’s not a big sci-fi reader, but hopefully she makes it far enough in to see this.

I love you, Babe!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This book would not have been possible without the massive assistance I’ve received from a great many people across this wonderful nation of ours. All the good things about it came out of close collaboration with these fine folks and groups. Any bit of awful science, military strategy, or prose that remains is entirely my fault. Special thanks to:

The United States Navy and all my shipmates from USS STETHEM (DDG 63), USS LASSEN (DDG 82), USS BONHOMME RICHARD (LHD 6), COMDESRON 26, Naval Postgraduate School, Surface Warfare Officers’ School, Pacific Missile Range Facility, and US Fleet Forces Command

Jeff Edwards (who goes above and beyond the call)

Winchell Chung and his amazing site, Atomic Rockets

Mark and Melissa Ellis, and the whole Newport Roundtable

Baen’s Bar and the Barflies, especially Edith Maor, Sam Hidaka,

Gray Rinehart, and Gary Cuba

Nathaniel Torson

Charles Lakey

Chris Ross Leong

Maria Edwards

The Kevins (Henson, Csubak, and Allison)

Joe, Iris, and Daniel Peace

All of those who followed me over from SciFi-Meshes.com

the entire First Readers Group (you know who you are!)

and lastly, but most importantly, my family: Mom, Dad, the Brothers, Jen, Isabel, Gabrielle, Dylan, and Kona. Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am and I wouldn’t write how I write. Love y’all.

BOOK ONE: “FORGED”

1: “TURNAROUND”

April 3, 2023; NASA Headquarters; Washington DC

There was nothing quite like the District in springtime. Gentle sunlight bathed the cityscape with warmth, banishing the last vestiges of winter's gloom and filling the idealistic and the unscrupulous alike with hope for the coming year. Fragrant, flowering ramparts of lilacs, forsythia, and cherry blossoms bordered sidewalks, providing tourists, politicos, and drivers an almost idyllic setting for navigating the nation’s capitol. Not even thoughts of the inevitable scandals, gang violence, and traffic congestion—which were certain to come with summer—could spoil Washington’s upbeat mood.

That mood was not shared by all, however.

A side door to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s DC headquarters burst open and released a furious, embarrassed Gordon Elliot Lee upon the city. He stormed out of the building, muttering to himself and glaring at the knots of ill-attired tourists walking along E street. Gordon strode forward with purpose, his own dark mood unrelieved by the joyful colors and pleasantly fragrant air everyone else seemed to bask in. He brushed past stupefied Washingtonians and stalked toward the nearest garbage can he could find, right at the intersection of E and 3rd. Reaching the can, he ripped open his slim briefcase.

As Gordon began to stuff page after page from his briefcase into the brown steel mouth of the can, the door to NASA’s concrete and glass offices burst open again. Lydia Russ scanned up and down E street and blanched when she saw what he was doing. She hurried as fast as her stylish pumps would allow her, and reached Gordon just as he ran out of paper and began to sort through the golden rainbow of data disks he had brought with him. She drew to a halt and tried to catch her breath, crying out, “Gordon! Stop this right now!”

He looked back at her and frowned. Apparently deciding the garbage can was no longer worthy of his offerings, he instead flung the disks outward into the four lanes of traffic heading up and down E street. The BlueROMs made excellent Frisbees and they shone and flashed beautifully as they bounced off cars and up from the blacktop. The drivers were somewhat less appreciative of his thoughtful gift, however. Everyone heard the familiar dissonance of screeching brakes, squealing tires, blaring horns, and one final movement of crunching metal.

Gordon grimaced and looked back to Lydia. His fine-boned, vaguely Amer-Asian features appeared unreadable, lost in a tumult of emotion. “Looks like my reputation’s not the only thing I’ve wrecked today.”

She approached and snatched the briefcase from him. Looking inside, she saw the only things left were some pens, flash drives, and Gordon’s ultra-expensive, ultra-thin business tablet. She wondered if his tantrum would have extended to throwing that into the street.

Raised voices and slamming car doors rose above the din of traffic resuming. Lydia saw the two drivers whose Lexus-on-Mercedes ballet had ended so abruptly. Each gentleman gestured wildly to the other, intent on fixing blame upon their obviously guilty counterpart. Then one picked up a battered BlueROM and they both began scanning up and down the street. Lydia took Gordon’s arm and pulled him away, hurrying down 3rd street, away from the accident.

He followed her lead only grudgingly, still in a huff over whatever had precipitated his fit. She glared at him. “Gordon, what the hell were you thinking?”

He looked at Lydia, remembering when they had been much more than industry associates. Her shoulder length, light brown hair whipped around her face in the building spawned wind, and he felt an unexpected pang of regret cutting through his pique. They had parted ways so long ago, but he thought their reunion had gone well until this. He had burned many bridges in the intervening years in order to make his mark in the world, yet he had to admit to himself that it hurt to think he had burned his final one to her. “I figured if I couldn’t even get you to listen, then all my work belonged in the garbage. The disk thing may have been a bit much, but it’s not like I didn’t have provocation.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. What were you thinking, going to the NASA with … that?”

He pulled his arm free of her grasp and stopped on the sidewalk, his anger resurging anew. “I’ve earned the right to tell NAS ...

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