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Title: Prisoners of Darkness
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #6
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Having heard nothing from operative Andien Broxin, Nether Ops leader X waits at the Carnivale landing site as the tactical assault ship Forresaw returns, two weeks late and without warning. X considers the possibilities of what her unannounced return might mean, and none of them are good for the Republic. He becomes agitated enough to alert a sniper team at the landing site to active status, along with Sergeant Major Avers, the Carnivale’s combat trainer. After landing, Andien Broxin emerges alone from the ship and tries to kill X. Avers and the sniper team return fire and destroys the Forresaw as it tries to escape.
Major Ellek Owens has been arrested on charges of treason to the Republic and multiple counts of assassination. While this is not unexpected (Legion Commander Keller had previously let him know that Keller himself would not be taking the fall for the Dark Ops destruction of the Kesselverks Shipyards on Tarrago Prime) it is the apparent end to an otherwise impressive career. A number of Dark Ops legionnaires make things difficult for Republic Army officer Lt. Lynne Pratell, who is under orders to deliver Owens to a military tribunal, but she persists and carries out her mission. The tribunal itself is for show rather than to determine Owens’ guilt or innocence, and he is sentenced to life at hard labor in the Synth mines of Herbeer.
At the Republic Navy depot at Bantaar Reef, Admiral Landoo is trying to figure out how to respond to her near-complete loss of the 7th Fleet at Tarrago Prime and the more recent destruction of a super-destroyer to Imperial forces. She discovers that there is no viable military response as the fabled fifteen fleets of the Republic were so much propaganda; the Seventh Fleet was the only active task force in the galaxy. In addition, the House of Reason will not allow her to reposition any of the remaining super-destroyer groups from their current stations. She has been scraping together auxiliary ships for her own response, however. While she considers her options, Imperial tri-fighters attack Bantaar Reef and succeed in destroying the Ship-to-Ship Munitions (SSM) facility there, crippling their heavy torpedo production. A single Republic officer is identified as someone who could have let the Imperial forces inside the defense perimeter and he can’t be located.
Lt. Pratell’s Republic Army detail delivers Owens to Herbeer as Indelible VI pursues Andien Broxin for kidnapping Aeson Keel’s crew. Ravi alerts them to Broxin’s destination: the Echo Comm Node station in the Antilles system. Keel, though he cannot abide the thought of dealing with Broxin, does ask Chhun for his help in resolving the situation, who agrees. A brief refuel and re-supply stop on the Intrepid ends with a meeting with the ship’s CO, Captain Deynolds.
Imperial assault frigate Wolf arrives at the gas mining station on Jasilaar 9 to capture the station and mining facility. Goth Sullus’ Empire (aka the Imperial Republic) needs to constantly expand its labor force and resources to maintain its operations and the only way to do that is to capture existing industrial stations. Unexpectedly loyal and capable Republic Marines defeat them soundly, at the cost of the station’s destruction. This is a major setback for the Empire. Only a single escape pod survives.
In the Muratawa system, a Mid-Core Rebel fleet led by Jona Crimm engages a far more (apparently) capable Republic fleet. Crimm is a rising star in the MCR and is looking to boost his reputation even further with this engagement. The Republic admiral calculates that hios super-destroyer’s Aegis Point Defense System is sufficient to destroy the MCR’s fighter cover and so delays launching his own Raptor squadrons. This gives the MCR forces the chance to launch heavy torpedoes inside their defense perimeter and destroy the picket destroyer Pegasus. With the loss of the Pegasus, the Republic fleet can no longer co-ordinate its fire control systems and falls apart, disabling several more ships. The Captain of the Republic destroyer Imminent drops his ship into the planet’s atmosphere to dissuade MRC fighters from following…which Crimm had planned for, and orders MCR forces to attack her from the planet’s surface. The Imminent is a total loss and crashes. The engagement is a serious defeat for the Republic and Jona Crimm’s reputation soars further as the man who won the Battle (Victory) of Muratawa.
Back on the Intrepid, it becomes clear that Ford has been following orders and Deynolds is well aware of his double life as the pirate captain Aeson Keel and the bounty hunter Wraith. Joining the meeting by hologram are Delagates Orrin Kaar, Aletha A’lill’n, and Valon Uprecht of the House of Reason Security Council, and Legion Commander Keller. The meetings brings the legionnaires up to speed on recent events including the death of Admiral Silas Devers (no great loss), and the fact that the kill team attack on Tarrago was in direct violation of the House Security Council’s orders. Ford and Chhun are offered a chance to confess that Owens was the sole initiator of the attack on the Kesselverks Shipyards. Signing the confessions would absolve the two legionnaires of responsibility in the matter. Both sign under protest, while Kaar promises them both the Order of Centurion for their loyalty. The Delegates disconnect and Keller acknowledges that Owens is a sop to a corrupt political process, and was already convicted and sentenced to a life of hard labor on Herbeer. Keller believes that with Owens out of the way, the House will make a grab for control of the Legion. And if Keel and Chhun were to head to Herbeer and rescue Owens from prison, well, they would all be considered co-conspirators. But they would also be able to resist the House’s plans for a coup.
After a heated exchange between Keel and Chhun, Keel decides not to join Chhun’s kill team on their rescue op.
At the Grand Pavillion of the Zhee tribes on Ankalor, Republic academic Jebba Monteau meets with the Grand Kahn of the Zhee to secure the race’s help in the Republic’s fight against the Empire. Jebba, although himself an academic expert on Zhee language, history, and culture slowly realizes that he’s in over his head but insists on completing his mission. He informs the Kahn that the Republic has been building advanced warships, weapons, and armor in secret all of which will be provided to the Zhee if the Kahn agrees to use his followers as troops for use by the House of Reason to attack Empire strongholds. The Kahn agrees, and Jebba becomes the most important part of the Zhee ritual, the Paradise of a Thousand Cuts.
In the Synth mines of Herbeer, Owens becomes acquainted with the work routine. Inmates are expected to mine three grams of synth each day, and prisoners often steal synth from each other to ease the quotas. The mines are run as a Gomarii slaving operation as well, and between the liberal installation of auto-turrets and a network of corrupt guards, escape is apparently impossible. Owens is befriended by Crux, an aged Savage War veteran who’s been working the mines for years and gives him the essentials on how to survive the harsh environment. Crux introduces Owens to “Rowdy,” First Sergeant Robert Cosler, a leej who was sentenced to life on Herbeer for shooting a point instead of following an illegal order. Cosler has banded together with other such former legionnaires, who now call themselves Synth Squad and keep each other safe from the Gomarii and other prisoners.
The base at Tarrago Prime has been converted by Imperial shock troopers into a detention and interrogation facility collectively known by Imperial troops as “Camp Spirit”. Republic soldiers are encouraged to give up vital information and join the Empire and many take advantage of this offer. Some of the more enduring resistors include Captain Thales, the (former) Chief Gunnery Officer of Fortress Omicron, Captain Desaix of the (now destroyed) corvette Audacity, Jory Moncray, a crewman from the Seventh Fleet, Raptor pilot Atumna Fal, legionnaire Corporal Casso, marine Jidoo Nadoori, and Rocokizzi, gunner’s mate from the Audacity. Desaix manages to head up an escape attempt, with Casso, Nadoori, and Rocokizzi in tow. Once outside the prison they hijack a ground transport containing Thales and Fal. By eliminating guards and hacking into the Imperial S-comm, they brazen their ways onto a grounded corvette and steal it, fighting their way out of Camp Spirit, while Desaix is nearly killed dealing with a trooper who is sabotaging the jump computer. Desaix defeats the saboteur, fixes the computer, and they make a clean jump into hyperspace.
Victory Squad has taken up residence on Deep Space Survival Outpost Tully 3, one of many such outposts throughout the galaxy, which are intended to benefit stranded space travelers. A new person arrives at the station: Lao Pak, a sometime associate of Aeson Keel. Pak’s job is to get them to Herbeer in Keel’s absence.
On Herbeer, Cosler is happy enough to hand command of his squad to Owens, in order to restore some semblance of legion order to their routine; having a legionnaire Major in charge would do that. Owens accepts the post and they begin to figure out how to wreck the Gomarii slavery ring and also figure out how an escape might happen.
Despite Lao Pak’s Galaxy-class transport ship’s problems, his awful piloting skills, and the fact that Pak is carrying an MCR prisoner who he intends to sell to the Gomarii, Victory squad successfully arrives at Herbeer.
Meanwhile, Hutch and Garret have holed up in a part of the Cybar warship Mother the warbots can’t access and Garret has learned how to gain entry into the controlling AI’s internal defense network, so that they can see what the machine sees. The mechanical intelligence that runs the ship has been pitting Skrizz against the ship’s warbots to test his resolve and combat ability. Skrizz has been through a number of contests and always seems to win. Prisma Maydoon is still being held as well. After considerable study, Garret believes he can gain control of MAGNUS, the ship’s controlling intelligence. Prisma has been practicing her mind-over-matter skills and has grown them considerably.
On Herbeer, Owens, Crux, and Rowdy appear to start a fight in order to distract the Gomarii. Owens uses a Dark Ops alias, Herron Knight, to promise wealth and power if the slavers can mitigate his sentence, and move him near the control room. Owens plans to get inside the room and turn off the auto-turrets and then instigate a riot.
While this is going on, Chhun’s kill team waits aboard the Galaxy-class freighter while Lao Pak talks their way into the mine’s docking bay, using the MCR prisoner as a shield.
Onboard Mother, it is revealed that MAGNUS has been micromanaging the conflict between the MCR and the Republic, and the Empire as a strategy meant to get the warring factions to wipe each other out, or at least to exhaust each other’s military capabilities. To that end, it has been sending organic replicants to strategic locations to facilitate chaos. The attack on X, Bantaar Reef, the Battle of Muratawa, and the destruction of the mining base on Jasilaar 9 were all due to replicants operating on MAGNUS’s orders. MAGNUS learns that there is another far more alien intelligence lurking within its programming…and it will make itself known in good time.
On Herbeer, Owens’ riot breaks out just as Chhun’s kill team infiltrates the mine. More by chance than planning, Chhun makes contact with Owens inside the control center, and now their mission is to shut down the auto-turret controls before the defenses kill the prisoners.
During the fight, Masters and Pike are attacked (and Pike is swallowed whole) by an indigenous worm-like life form, and Masters deduces these monsters are what the auto-turrets were designed to defend against. Lao Pak sees the fight on monitors and abandons Chhun’s team to its fate. Owens and Chuun’s team put down the Gomarii and break into the guarded section of the mine to find that there are hundreds of prisoners waiting in cages, to be sold in the Gomarii slave market. Owens recognizes one as Lt. Pratell, and surmises that the operation is used to silence the Republic’s political opponents.
At this point everyone with a working blaster is attacking the creature that is still rampaging through the mine, eating what it can catch. Pike however is still conscious and triggers a belt of grenades he was wearing when the attack came. The blast destroys the monster. Owens gets on the comm and declares that the Legion is now in control of the facility.
In the aftermath of the inmate rebellion, the former prisoners re-purpose a Republic shuttle for use after locating it in a maintenance bay, before it had been stripped for parts. Owens and Victory squad are due to leave the planet, while Rowdy and Synth Squad remain behind to run the prison, with Lt. Pratell as their new CO. Crux, who died in the fight, will receive a proper leej burial aboard the Mercutio. Owens contacts the Mercutio from orbit informing them of the situation, and plans a rendezvous with the destroyer.
On the planet Wayste, Ravi and Keel head into the deep desert to locate the remains of Kael Maydoon and do so with local help, but are intercepted by Imperial shock troopers. Keel recognizes one of them: Exo.
Whoever has been writing these synopses has my admiration and I’d place them against Mr Torval (the guy who has been writing the Wheel of Time synopses) and call it a dead heat. Place your bets now, folks, step right up, step right up, place your bets on who can write a longer synospses! All wagers accepted, except for used pancakes, we refuse to bet with used pancakes, step right up, step right up there! Place your bets, today might be your lucky day …..
This was yet another excellent entry in the Galaxy’s Edge series. Starting the book out with adding “replicants” to the mix made me sit up and holler an outloud “Oh Yeah!”. Battlestar Galactica, here we come! There was also a scene where some Republic prisoners were escaping and how it was worded and everything just made me do a fist pump of excitement. It was exciting writing and brought a grin to my face.
I think I’ve finally gotten used to Captain Ford/Keel/Wraith all being the same person. One man having 3 different personnas and names was a bit confusing but I think its all sorted now. It helps that he’s pretty much chosen the Rogue Keel as who he is now.
In a previous review I’d talked about how this Galaxy’s Edge universe seemed to be growing faster than ever. Well, there is another sub-series co-written called Order of the Centurion and there was another one called Dark Operator about the Dark Ops. I haven’t read any sub-series written by other authors yet and I plan on holding off doing that until I’m caught up to what Anspach and Cole have put out themselves. Michael Anderle has done something similar with his Kurtherian Universe and most of the co-written spinoffs pretty much just had his name on the cover and the contents were typical atrocious indie junk. I can’t say that is the case for Anspach and Cole but I’m keeping that in the back of my head. I do wish there were more reviews on WordPress, as when I look I found very few people have reviewed these books on their blogs.
This series continues to impress me and give me boat loads of fun reading. I look forward to each new book that comes my way. KTF!