Good morning! Welcome to Snippet Saturday. If you are joining the blog for the first time or if you haven’t figured out what’s going on in my warped writer’s mind, I’m posting snippets from the Honor & Duty series as we lead up to the release of Victory from Ashes. Today’s snippet comes from Risen from Ashes, Book 6 of the series.
Savitar VI System
One week. Seven days spent praying enemy reinforcements didn’t arrive. Seven days of every medically able member of the taskforce working nearly around the clock to bring at least some of their ships back up to battle readiness. Seven days spent wondering if their target would find a way out of the system before they moved in and made an arrest.
And seven very long days for her guilt to grow.
But, for the first time in those seven days, anger surpassed guilt and she embraced it. If there was any justice in the universe, their quarry would give her reason to kill him. Preferably slowly and painfully. It might not bring the dead back, but at least she’d be able to tell their families the man responsible had been made to pay for what he did.
“Secure the exits,” she ordered as she stepped off the lift. As she did, the other fire teams reported in, confirming they were in place and no one could reach the floor without her permission.
Colonel Ashlyn Shaw watched as four battle armored Marines moved into position, two remaining at the lifts and the others moving to the far end of the corridor. A bitter smile twisted Ash’s lips as the sounds of their boots striking the marble floor filled the air. She waited, wondering if their quarry would appear to investigate the strange sounds. But no. Either he was too much of a coward or he didn’t believe they’d dare come for him on his own turf. Not that it mattered. Soon enough she’d have him in custody. One way or the other, he would face justice for his betrayal of the taskforce, a betrayal that cost so many deaths.
“Exits secure, Angel.”
She glanced at the Marine standing next to her, his battle rifle in hand, and nodded. “Clear the floor, Shadow. I want it quick and quiet.”
“Roger that, Angel.”
It didn’t take long. Less than five minutes passed when word came that the last office on the floor had been cleared. Only three had been occupied. No one offered any resistance. More importantly, the workers had been quick to confirm their target was in the meeting room at the far end of the corridor.
“Ranger, Goru, you have our guests,” she commed. “Thumper, shut down the lifts.” She waited for confirmation. “Let’s move in.”
Weapons at the ready, nine of Fuercon’s best Marines, moved purposefully down the corridor toward their target. As they took up positions near the meeting room doors, Ash nodded. She watched as one of them scanned the area beyond the wall. A moment later, Ash pulled the image up on her HUD and studied it. Six people, all sitting around a table in the center of the room. None of the scans showed active security and only two of those present appeared to be armed.
“On my mark.”
A hand on her arm stopped her as she took a step forward. Eyes flashing, not that her Marines could see with her faceplate darkened, she glanced at the Marine who’d been her shadow the last few days. Sergeant Michael Shaw shook his head. Then he activated a private comm link.
“Angel, no. Let the heavy armor make entry first.”
She ground her teeth in frustration. She’d known it had been a mistake to bring him. He knew her too well. Unfortunately, Admiral Collins left her little choice. It was bring her younger brother, currently assigned to her team after the death Master Gunnery Sergeant Kevin Talbot and others under her command or remain on the ship.
“This is my mission, Shadow.”
“And you are the regiment’s CO,” he reminded her. “Angel, we can’t risk you,” he added softly. “Your Marines need you. Don’t make them grieve for you as well.”
She closed her eyes and counted to ten. Leave it to him to know exactly what buttons to push to guilt her into doing as he wanted. “We will discuss this later.”
He gave a nod and stepped back. Without waiting for permission, he signaled the two heavy armored Marines to take their positions at the door. The others fell back, weapons at the ready.
“Blow the door. Concussion grenades to follow,” Ash ordered as she pulled her battle rifle from the scabbard across her back.
“Roger that, Angel,” Boomer, the team’s explosives expert, replied.
From her place down the corridor, Ashlyn watched as the man set the charge at the double doors. A moment later, he gave a thumbs-up. He and his partner, Rogue, moved to either side of the doors. Every Marine watched as Boomer lifted his right hand, all five fingers visible. One by one, a finger lowered, marking the countdown to detonation.
The controlled blast blew the security locks from the door. Before the smoke cleared, the heavy armored Marines moved into place. Rogue kicked open the doors. Boomer tossed in a concussion grenade. Ash nodded as the cries of surprise at the initial explosion turned into something else. Pain and disorientation replaced the surprise and anger. If she had her way, that would soon turn to fear.
“Move in!” she ordered.
The Marines moved as one. This was a maneuver they’d practiced until they could do it in their sleep. Less than sixty seconds later, six members of the Savitar VI government were secured and on their knees at the rear of the room. Behind each one stood a Devil Dog. The six wouldn’t be going anywhere without Ash’s permission.
And, as far as she was concerned, they could all go to Hell. Unfortunately, that wasn’t her call. Not unless they did something she could point to as justifying the use of deadly force. She might be willing to risk her own career, but she would not put the careers, much less the lives, of those under her command in jeopardy just because she needed to avenge the deaths of Talbot and those onboard the shuttle with him.
“It’s your show now, Angel,” her brother said softly over their private link.
“We’re still going to have that talk once we return to the ship, little brother.” She reached up and touched the side of her helmet. Her face plate turned transparent. “Let’s do this.”
She scanned the room, noting not only where her Marines and their prisoners were but any potential sources of danger their scans might have missed. Satisfied there were no unexpected surprises awaiting them, she crossed the room. She reached out with a gloved hand and she tilted up the middle man’s face so she could look him in the eye.
“Name!” she barked out in her best parade ground voice.
“How dare you!” He struggled to stand, only to find himself easily held in place by the Marine behind him.
“Governor Charles Edward Fonteneau and I’ll have your commission for this.”
Ash reached up and removed her helmet. Her brother stepped forward and took it from her. As he tucked it under one arm so his gun hand remained unencumbered, she nodded to the Marine behind Fonteneau. Without warning, Strider pulled the man to his feet.
“For the record, I am Colonel Ashlyn Shaw, 7thDivision 10thRegimen Fuerconese Marine Corps,” Ash said even though Fonteneau knew exactly who she was. They’d been in communication before and after the Callusian attack. But Admiral Richard Collins, the taskforce’s commanding officer, wanted this done by the book. “Charles Edward Fonteneau, it is my duty to inform you that you are now in the custody of the Fuerconese Navy. The transitional government of the Savitar VI System met, heard the evidence against you and granted my government’s request to take you into custody.”
She reached out and her brother handed her a datapad. She glanced at the display, not that she needed it to remind her what the charges were against the man. Holding his gaze, she read off the charges, pausing briefly after each one. Let him wonder if that was the last charge or if there were more to come.
“You will be transported to Taskforce Avenger. From there you will be taken to Fuercon to answer the charges against you. Once you have, it is possible you may be returned here to face any charges your home system wishes to bring against you. But, for now, you are ours.”
“You can’t!” He struggled against the hands holding him. Then he cried out when, after a simple nod from Ash, Strider kicked him in the back of his knees and forced him once more to the floor. “We–” He looked frantically to either side, indicating the others being held by Marines. “—are the government. There is no legitimate provisional government.”
“I beg to differ. From my understanding of the system’s constitution, the provisional government was duly formed and sworn in. But that’s not my concern. I’m sure your counsel will raise that issue once you are on Fuercon.” Not that it would do him any good. At least she hoped not.
“Fonteneau, I have one question for you now. Who else worked with you to betray my people?” Fonteneau looked at the floor, refusing to answer. With a sigh, Ashlyn turned to her brother. “Sergeant, assign three Marines to escort this piece of shit back to our shuttle. Make sure he doesn’t do so much as stub his toe.” She paused, waiting until Fonteneau looked up. “However, if he does anything that could even remotely put the Marines in danger, they aren’t to hesitate to use whatever force they feel necessary to contain him.”
“Roger that, Colonel.” He quickly instructed Strider and two others to do as Ash ordered.
She waited until the three left the room. Then she turned her attention to the others. For several long moments, she studied them. She’d been briefed on each of them. Nothing in the briefing material pointed to them having betrayed the taskforce. Of course, until they intercepted the attempt to hack the system defense platforms, none of them suspected Fonteneau of even considering betraying them to the enemy.
Then there was the fact none of the five had been included in the new provisional government. That could simply be politics, or it could be the newly formed government’s way of pointing a finger at them without actually making any accusation. Either way, she needed to determine what role, if any, the five played in Callusians attack on the system. She would not leave the surface until she had everyone responsible for what happened to the taskforce in custody or buried.
“Move them to chairs but do not remove their restraints,” she ordered.
Once seated, the three men and two women watched as Ashlyn paced up and down in front of them. The only sounds in the room were those of her boots against the marble floor and their own breathing. It was as if Ashlyn was a jungle cat deciding which of her petrified prey she’d attack first.
“As I told Fonteneau, I am Colonel Ashlyn Shaw, commanding officer of 7thDiv10thReg. My Marines are the ones who dropped to the surface of Shennong to look for survivors. They risked their lives to do what your own military should have been ordered to do. My Marines, along with our naval counterparts, stood ready to protect the system when the Callusian invasionary force returned. We were willing to die to do so. What we did not know was that Fonteneau, and perhaps one or more of you, tried to betray Taskforce Liberator. That betrayal failed but at the cost of more than a thousand Fuerconese and allied lives. Lives we will avenge one way or another.”
She let the threat hang in the air for several moments before continuing.
“I have a question and I’m only going to ask it once. If you refuse to answer, or if I have reason to believe you are lying, you will be removed to the flagship and taken to Fuercon to answer the same charges your former system governor faces.”
“You don’t have the authority,” a redheaded woman at the end of the row began.
Ash turned to her, a smile as cold as ice, on her lips. “I have every authority,” she corrected. “Admiral Collins informed your Chief Justice of the charges against Fonteneau before our arrival. The Chief Justice, pursuant to your laws, reviewed the evidence and agreed there was more than enough to support our claims. He then convened a meeting between the leaders of the various political parties in the system. They formed a provisional government and reviewed the charges and supporting documentation. Once the Chief Justice signed the appropriate legal documents confirming the charges, the government granted us permission to take Fonteneau and anyone else who might be involved in the conspiracy into custody for removal to Fuercon.
“My question, ladies and gentlemen, is quite simple. Who knew of Fonteneau’s plans and why were no steps taken to stop him?”
She watched and waited. The remaining five looked from one to the other. Several looked shell-shocked, not only by the events of the last few minutes but by the revelation of what Fonteneau had done. But two, including the redhead, betrayed themselves. A bland looking man Ash normally wouldn’t look at twice swallowed hard and sweat beaded on his upper lip. The redhead jerked once against the hands holding her in place as all color seemed to drain from her face.
That was more than enough for Ash.
“Sergeant, those two are to be taken into custody. Have them escorted to the shuttle.”
Her brother quickly did as she said. As the two were taken from the room, Ash leaned against the table, seeming to relax. Even so, her rifle still rested in her hands and the remaining Marines remained on guard.
“You will be held here a short while longer. If you cooperate, you’ll receive our thanks and be allowed to return to your families. It will be up to the provisional government to determine what role you play going forward but that’s not my concern.”
One by one, they nodded in understanding.
“However.” Her voice turned hard once again. “If I discover you lied, or if you do anything that could endanger my people, you will find this is your last moment of freedom. Any attempt to harm my people will result in your deaths. Do you understand?”
Each of them swallowed hard once and then nodded. It wouldn’t take much more to have them pissing themselves and she didn’t care. Let them understand how grave an error they made by not stopping Fonteneau before Talbot and the others were killed.
“We’ll cooperate,” the remaining woman said. “Majel Karkoc, Interior Ministry.”
“Let her up.” She watched as Karkoc stood. “Ms. Karkoc, I hope you do. We lost some very good men and women in the attempt to keep the Callusians out of this system. They were our brothers- and sisters-in-arms, something we Marines take very seriously. Any attempt to prevent us from doing our duty here will be dealt with swiftly and without mercy. Do you understand?”
“We do.” She glanced at her companions and they agreed.
“Sergeant, I leave it to you to secure the information we need. I’m returning to the shuttle to report to Admiral Collins.”
“Aye, Colonel. Corporal Branz will accompany you.”
“Updates every half hour, more frequently if needed.” She took her helmet from him and once again secured it in place. Then she activated their private link. “Keep comms open, Mike. If there’s trouble, get back to the shuttle on the bounce.”
“You just watch your six, Ash. We’ve got this.”
She hoped they did. The last thing she wanted to do was tell their parents something happened to him on her watch.
is available from all major e-book retailers. A print version of the book is also available. Next Saturday, I’ll post a snippet from Victory from Ashes, Book 7 in the series. Victory is now available for pre-order and will be released September 7, 2021. I’ll be posting snippets from it going forward–but keep an eye on the blog. The occasional snippet may happen before then. In fact, it might have already happened. VBEG